7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from11th January (vide page 2953), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That the House protests against -
The repudiation of the pledges of the Prime Minister and other Ministers;
the political persecution of public men and other citizens and -the press under the War Precautions Regulations during the recent Referendum campaign ;
the deprivation of statutory electoral rights of Australian-born citizens by regulation behind the back of Parliament ;
the general administration of public affairs ; and wishes to inform His Excellency the Governor-General that the Government does not possess the confidence of the people of Australia.
.- The sneering of the Leader of the Government at the Leader of the Labour party exhibited in the opening remarks of the Prime Minister might well come under the parliamentary rule against tedious repetition. Notwithstanding that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) is the soul of generosity in, his references to’ the Prime Minister, the latter rarely rises to reply to him without indulging in sneering and insulting remarks.
It was characteristic of the Prime Minister that he should denounce both Democracy and the referendum because the result of the referendum was not acceptable to him, and the Democracy of this country does not agree with him. Let me read a passage which I think appropriate to the present occasion -
There is surely some moral obliquity about a nature such as his. No act that he commits, no party thathe betrays, no cause that be abandons affects him at all. He regards himself as the selected and favoured agent of Providence.Everything that he does he does for the very best! He does it because there is nothing else that can be done to conserve the welfare of the people and the interests of the nation. To realize this noble ideal, he has assassinated Governments, abandoned friends to the wolves, deserted principles, and deceived the people. . . He is the political mercenary of Australia. He will lead any party - he will follow none. He is faithful to only one thing - himself. . . . What a career his has been.In his hands at various times have rested the banners of every party in this country. He has proclaimed them all; he has held them all; he has betrayed” them all….. He stands to-day under the banner of the Employers Federation, under the banner of every vested interest, of every powerful monopoly.
That might well be Hughes on Hughes, though it happens to be ‘ Hughes on Deakin, in 1909. On that occasion, the present Prime Minister, pointing to the Ministerial benches, exclaimed, “ A National policy and Sir William Irvine! A National policy and Mr. Fairbairn ! A National policy and Mr. Bruce Smith ! A National policy and Mr. Joseph Cook!” To-day he sits with them all, cheekbyjowl; a National policy, if you please!
For audacity in excelsis commend me to the complaint of the Prime Minister that the Leader of the Opposition did not; review the war situation. Such a review is primarily the responsibility of the Leader of the Government. It was his duly, when he met the House last week, to report upon the progress of the war. Not only did he not do that, but he has never yet made such a report to Parliament since the war began. When we met last, after an adjournment of three months, we had no such report; when the Budget for the year was introduced there was no such report. The Prime’ Minister taunted the Leader of the Opposition with not having performed a duty which he himself has neglected throughout in the most barefaced manner. Furthermore, by the application of the censorship, he has prevented the Leader of the Opposition from obtaining knowledge of the facts upon which alone he could make a statement concerning the war. Compare the Prime Minister’s inaction . in this matter with the practice in Great Britain. There is no occasion on which the British Parliament re-assembles after adjournments which are shorter than ours, on which some responsible Minister does not review the war situation. But from the commencement of the war to the present time, we have had no reports from this Government concerning the operations of the Allies and Australia’s war activities. There has been no consultation with Parliament. We are kept absolutely ignorant by -this would-be dictator. The Prime Minister has failed also to report upon the great war-trading services of this country in which millions of our money are invested. We have had no report on our great shipping line, and know nothing of the Government control of the shipping belonging to private firms, except what we learn from the newspapers, very much- to the disadvantage of Government management.
The . Prime Minister offers to efface himself. For whom does he speak ? Does he speak for the Cabinet in this matter? I pause for an answer. There is none. Does he speak for his party ? No answer.
– He does not.
– Then the Government party has not been consulted. The honorable gentlemen opposite, by their laughter, seem to regard the matter as a huge joke. What . does this random; loose offer mean? Does it mean the maintenance of existing causes of disunity for which the Prime Minister and his Government are responsible ? It may be interpreted to mean that the right honorable gentleman would make a place in the Ministry for the Leader of the Opposition. It may mean an offer to form a National party by the amalgamation of all parties. It may mean an offer of the fair distribution of the responsibilities of office. It is, however, very vague, very indefinite, and disowned by both Ministers and members of the Prime Minister’s party. It is a strategic offer not meant to be accepted.
Before dealing with this so-called offer in more detail, it is necessary to review the development of the affairs of this country. In spite of the misrepresentations, and vile calumnies hurled at the party with which I am associated, it stands in the same position in relation to the war to-day as it did at the outbreak of the war. We well remember the tragic events of July, 1914, the assassination of an Austrian prince on Bosnian soil, the ultimatum levelled at Servia, the impossible conditions of that ultimatum, the declaration by Austria that she would declare war on Servia if its terms were not completely fulfilled, Russia coming to the assistance of Servia, the declaration by France that she would stand by her Russian ally, and the attempt by Germany to forestall France by the invasion of Belgium, which brought Great Britain into the war in order to honour the public law of Europe and treaties publicly made by her.’ In standing by Great Britain in that enterprise Australia did not act with any one section of the people, but with all classes and creeds, including the great Labour movement. While it has suited the opponents of Labour to pretend that they seek to abolish party lines, for party purposes they have set out to prejudice the great Australian Labour movement by foul libels on- its aims and objects in connexion with the war. I repeat that Labour to-day stands where it did at the beginning of the war -
I set out Australian war aims in this way-
Let us for a moment review what Labour has done in Australia during this war. When there was a Labour Government we had peace, harmony, and unity in this country. We had great efforts put forth to assist Great Britain. Anything of material consequence that has been done in connexion with Australia’s part in the war has been done under a Labour Administration. I ask honorable members opposite to point to one thing of any consequence that has been done by them since they have taken the place of the Labour Government. They cannot do so. They are as dumb as oysters. They have done absolutely nothing of any consequence.
– You had a few
– Australia is not singular in that respect. There have been strikes in every country at war - in France, Britain, Italy, and America, and in Germany as well. The only strike of any consequence in Australia during the war was that provoked by a despotism that plotted and planned the smashing of organized labour. We had peace, harmony, concord, and unity In Australia until W. M. Hughes assumed control. Before he went to London, his control in Australia was but nominal. It- was upon his return from Great Britain that the apple of discord was thrown into this country, and ever since then the war efforts of Australia have been paralyzed. There has been some talk of German propaganda. If the Germans had desired to propagate dissension in any country they could not have done better than by employing W. M. Hughes to do it in Australia. He has done their work better than they could have done it themselves. Any German attempt from outside to interfere in Australia would, have solidified the country, but this man has gone about creating dissension, discord, ‘ ‘and disruption everywhere. In order to show what had been done until he came back from Great Britain, let me quote a few words of a speech which he delivered in London, before the Pilgrims’ Club on the 17th March, 1916. He said-
Although we are a peace-loving people, although we have slumbered in a lotus land for many years, we have shown to the world that we have not lost the valour of our forefathers. … At the first rattling of the sabre turmoil died down, dissensions ceased, we were a united people.
I have come here, after some eighteen months of war, as the representative of a Dominion.
They have all proved themselves worthy of the breeding. Australia has sent out of the country, to the European or Asiatic battlefields, up to the first week in March, 150,000 men. We have . enlisted to the first week in March, 268,000 men. We shall have enlisted by the beginning of June 300,000 men.
A small community of under 5,000,000 people, we have been able to train, to equip from head to foot, a great army of men. It is a great thing, and one which we may mention with pride and satisfaction.
That was the condition of tilings up to the time W. M. Hughes came back from Great Britain. Australia had enlisted 300,000 men, and very little has been done since because of the dissension he has caused. He shifted the storm centre of Prussianism from Europe to Australia:
What was the first thing that he did when he met his colleagues but to drive a wedge into his own Cabinet and split it in twain? And he followed the same process into the party he was leading and divided it into two antagonistic sections. He divided the great Australian Labour movement which gave him the opportunity to become what he is in this country and in the Empire to-day, and then he proceeded upon, and prosecuted, a campaign outside which, for the first time in the war, created a gulf of dissension as wide as that between heaven and hell amongst the people of Australia.
Just let me refer for a few minutes to that 1916 conscription campaign. He said, “ We will have this referendum campaign and come back afterwards as friends.” “What was his attitude towards the members of his own party during that campaign ?
Was there any libel, any foul abuse, any epithet, any insult that he could hurl at them that he did not assail them with from every platform ? In the pay of Germany ! Germany’s mouth in their ears ! Germany’s hand in’ their palms ! German gold being distributed! There was no base slander that the vocabulary could produce that he. did not charge against the members of his own party who happened to disagree with, him.
He abused the censorship in the most shockingly partisan fashion. There has been no interference with the .press of Russia to outdo his manipulation of the newspapers of this country.
He sought to ^pollute the ballotbox.After certain Ministers had refused him authority to pass regulations which would permit of military interference at the ballotboxes, he got a couple of other Ministers together and had those regulations passed, upon which three of his colleagues resigned. ‘He sent out orders that the press of the country was not to let the people know of the resignation of those Ministers; and if Senator Gardiner had not been Acting Minister for Defence at the time, and had not threatened to order a military guard to lock up the censors if they interfered, the fact would not have reached the people through the press, and there would have been military intimidation at the polling booths. As late as the night before the poll, in the vicinity of 5,000 urgent telegrams were sent out to the electoral officers throughout Australia to withdraw those infamous regulations, because, this coward was’ not plucky enough to stand up to them when his trickery was exposed to the public.
Mr. J. H. Catts
And, worst of all, the whole of that campaign has been shown by subsequent events to be absolutely unnecessary. The division in the country, the discord, the disunion, the interference with Australia’s war efforts were shown to have been the consequences of the extravagant, the unreasonable, military demands that the Prime Minister.. put before the country.
After the campaign we had a meeting of the Labour party, but the honorable gentleman did not meet the party willingly ; this brave man was forced to do so by a signed petition of members. Then, when he found that his leadership was challenged, as it was challenged in the National party a week ago, and that he was not able to manipulate the members of the Labour party as he has since manipulated the members of the National party, and that there was a majority against him, he was too base to remain and . receive the vote of his colleagues. He would be leader or’ nothing. He walked out of the meeting, and asked those who were prepared to support him to go with -him. He was never expelled from the Federal Parliamentary Labour party; any statements that he was so expelled are unmitigated falsehoods.
It is true that he was ex.pelled from the outside organizations. It has been said over and over again that the expulsion took place for no valid reason - that he was merely the victim of the dictation of the outside Labour bodies. When W. M. Hughes became a member of the Labour party he signed a pledge to abide by the platform of that (party, and upon al details associated with the- carrying out of the platform to accept the- decision of a majority of the Parliamentary Labour party in Caucus assembled. In carrying out the Labour programme of national defence the Labour party interpreted its attitude towards conscription for service overseas in a section in the Defence Act which it has placed on the statute-book of Australia. Section 49 reads -
Members of the Defence Force who are members of the Military Forces shall not be required, unless they voluntarily agree to do so, to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and those of any territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.
When that decision was arrived at by the Labour party, and incorporated in legislation, it became, equally with the declared planks, part of the platform of the party. When W. M. Hughes violated that decision he violated the platform of the party, and for that he suffered, like every other man who had violated the platform before him.
After deserting his own party the right honorable gentleman attempted unsuccessfully to form a National Labour Federation. He set out vindictively to smash the movement that took him from the gutter and raised him to eminence. He would have carried on by himself if he could have done so, but finding that he could not, he resolved to enter into a coalition with his life-long political opponents - the men who had derided him from every platform. We well remember the resultant wrangle for jobs. Negotiations took place over a lengthy period in regard to the division of the loaves and fishes, the Ministerial portfolios, and only recently we had another illustration of the same tactics. History repeats itself with the right honorable gentleman. Almost simultaneously with the Coalition negotiations, the Labour party received a hypocritical invitation to join with the man who a few weeks before had left its ranks and attempted to set up another organization for the purpose of smashing the Australian Labour movement. In face of the base slanders uttered against Labour, that offer was meant only to be refused.
The activities of the Coalition Government were no less remarkable. Then, as now, being defeated at a conscription referendum, the Prime Minister desired to escape to England. The Coalition party would not allow him to go by himself, and appointed two others to accompany and watch him.
The Prime Minister sought to have the life of Parliament extended until the end of the war to enable him and other Labour pledge-breakers to hold their seats, in spite of public opinion. The proposal was to extend the life of Parliament till the end of the war and six months thereafter by an interference on the part of the British Government with the selfgoverning rights guaranteed to us under the Constitution.
Do we not remember that the difficulties of the Government were so great in con nexion with that proposed delegation and the attempt to extend the life of Parliament that we had the scandal associated with the resignation of Senator Beady? The majority of members in another place carried a resolution demanding the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into what was supposed to be the bribery and corruption connected with the Beady incident, which arose out of the necessity to get a majority in another place to carry out the decisions of the Coalition Government. While the Ready incident remains without a public, inquiry, and the futile demands of the Senate for the appointment of a Royal Commission stand on the public records, and the Government show themselves afraid to face an inquiry, we can come only to the conclusion that the refusal is. prompted by the knowledge that bribery and corruption took place which could not be covered up.
Then, when Senator Watson rose in his place in Parliament, and explained that the same tricks had been tried on him, that all sorts of offers had been made to him, the Prime Minister sought to break down the privileges of Parliament by dragging into the Law Courts of the country a very poor man who could not afford to defend himself there. That action has since been settled by the Prime Minister paying the whole of the costs of both sides.
The circumstances associated with the resignation of one Tasmanian senator were so obnoxious to two Liberal senators from that State .that they threatened to vote against the Government in regard to the proposed delegation to the Imperial Conference, and thus forced’ the Government unwillingly to face the electors.
It is true that by purloining from the outside recruiting organizations the name of “Win-the-waT,” and smashing that organization in order to get a party advantage, and because of the disruption of the Labour party, which up to that time could not be sufficiently explained to the people, and because they pledged themselves that, they would not bring in conscription, although they had sworn before Heaven that the government of the country . could not be carried on without it, they were returned again to power. I am compelled to confess, also, that the clumsy tactics on the part of Labour assisted tbem. At any rate, they returned with a majority about the same as that previously held by Labour.’
What has this party, with its. great majority, done to win the war? Honorable members opposite have put a tax on single men as a means of introducing economic compulsion ; they increased the salaries of Ministers by voting £1,650 into the Ministerial pool to be shared amongst members of the Government at the rate of about £200 each ; and they passed a bogus Repatriation Act, which does not guarantee a single thing to any soldier. Beyond those efforts they have not attempted any measures which can be said to be designed to assist in winning the war.
Last year we had a brief session, and an adjournment in September, because we were given tp understand Ministers- desired a spell. Some of our friends said that the Government were tired of criticism and desired to get away from’ it. As a matter of fact, that adjournment took place in order that the Government might secretly, and behind the backs of the people, arrange another conscription campaign, and take their opponents at an unfair advantage. Just before the adjournment the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) appealed to the Leader of the Government to state publicly to the House the reason for it. He said that there were matters of great national importance which must be dealt with, and he invited the Leader of the Government to take the House candidly into his confidence and tell it the reason for the adjournment.
The Prime Minister has said something as to the Germanic attack upon Italy being one of the reasons for the referendum. The arrangements for the conscription campaign were made, however, before the first news of that attack had reached Australia.
– The right honorable gentlemandoes not yet know the Prime Minister, with whom He sits. The methods of the Prime Minister are not to take his colleagues into Eis confidence until a suitable time. When the arrangements up to a certain stage are complete, his method is to let a few more into his confidence, and gradually to widen the circle until he has brought in the whole of his party. He has already played that game several times with his colleagues. The Prime Minister cannot change his skin.
The honorable . member for Flinders set out on his conscription campaign on the 10th October, and it was not until the 26th October, that news of the Germanic attack on Italy first reached this country. Clearly, therefore, that attack had nothing to do with the campaign.
Senator Pearce opened his campaign in the Sydney Town Hall on the 31st October, but the whole of his arrangements were made before the first news of the Germanic attack upon Italy reached Australia.
The Prime Minister is, with Colonel Campbell, joint secretary of the Defence League of New South Wales. Colonel Campbell, in a statement to the press on the 19th October - seven days before the first news of the Germanic attack upon Italy reached this country - set out the league’s scheme for the organization of New South Wales for the conscription campaign. To tell me that Colonel Campbell did not undertake that work with the knowledge and concurrence, if not at the instigation, of his co-secretary, the Prime Minister, is to tell me’ something I am not prepared to believe.
Does the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) remember the date of the Cabinet meeting at which the conscription campaign was decided upon ?
– It was 7th November last. The Minister nods his assent. I have here a copy of the Anzac Bulletin of 16thNovember, published to our soldiers, which contains the following in regard to the referendum on conscription : -
Melbourne, 6th November.
The Federal Government has decided to take another referendum on the question of conscription almost immediately. A definite scheme is being drafted, details of which Mr. Hughes will announce at Bendigo on Monday.
That was the announcement made in London a day before the Cabinet met and decided upon the conscription campaign.
– Announced by whom ?
– By Mr. Andrew Fisher, High Commissioner for the Com- mon wealth, in the Anzac Bulletin, published to our soldiers. 1
– Was that on the Tuesday ?
– Yes ; the day before the Cabinet dealt with the matter. I have here press references to statements made on that very day by the Prime Minister, who was then in Sydney, to the effect that the Cabinet was going to meet, and would in general review the military situation ; but he gave it to be understood that the question of conscription was not coming up for special consideration.
On the 8th November last, the day upon which the announcement was first made by the Prime Minister that there was to be a conscription campaign, there appeared in the Argus a statement made by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) to the effect that -
Copies of the necessary papers have already been distributed for yoting abroad and in distant parts of Australia.
– Those papers were sent out without any knowledge that there was to be a referendum.
– It is peculiar that the honorable gentleman should have made that statement, as reported in the Argus, on the day after that on which the Cabinet dealt with the matter.
– There is not a word of truth in that assertion.
– I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman saw the published report of this interview with himself, yet he did not correct it.
– What I told the press was that the papers were also distributed to distant parts, as they always are, after an election has taken’ place. I did not know until the 7th November that there was to be a referendum.
– It It is strange that, according to the honorable gentleman’s own admission, the papers were at that very time distributed to distant parts in readiness for the vote. Apparently tie Prime Minister had manipulated his honorable colleague so well that he really did not know he was playing his leader’s game. On the following day the Chief Electoral Officer was reported to have said - “Abroad” means “Rabaul, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, France, England, and at sea.”
– When was that statement made?
– On 9th November, the day after that made by the Minister for Home and Territories. On the 10th November the Sydney Morning Herald published the statement by the Chief Electoral Officer that -
The electoral officers, both, in Australia and abroad, had been informed of the impending referendum and their organization was already well in train. By Monday, 12th November, he expected they would all have been apprised of the contents of the regulations and be prepared to go straight ahead.
On the Monday there appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald the following cable : -
Colonel Griffiths is arranging to take a ballot- of the soldiers’ vote during the fortnight preceding 20th- December.
It would appear, therefore, that all these arrangements had been carried out to a time-table. I am accepting the denial just made by the Minister for Home and Territories that he knew what was going on; but the Chief Electoral Officer himself said that all the necessary papers had been despatched abroad.
-As they always are after an election. After an election we send out fresh supplies so as to avoid trouble should anything, occur afterwards.
– But in the Chief Electoral Officer’s statement there is a reference to the regulations under which the conscription vote was to be taken. Those regulations are fundamentally different from the regulations under which a general election is conducted.
– What I say can be easily proved by a reference to the records in my office. They are open to the honorable member.
– I give this evidence as a whole. I know the Prime Minister as well as does any man in this county. I have worked alongside him, and I am not prepared to believe that he had not his mind, made up when the adjournment took place in September to engineer another conscription campaign and to take his opponents at a disadvantage.
– He had nothing to do with the Electoral Officer until the 6th or 7th November.
– He would make what arrangements he pleased, and the honorable gentleman, as one of his colleagues, would know of them , only when, it suited him to disclose.
I come now to the conduct of this campaign. Look at the persecution of public men in this country who dared to oppose the Prime Minister. The most serious inroad made upon our liberty, since the time of the Stuarts. I have a list of some of the prosecutions, but in every case they were prosecutions of those opposed to the Government; and in no case was there a prosecution of any person, party, company, or newspaper that was supporting the Government. The following are some of the persecutions I desire to place on record : -
Hon. T. J. Ryan, Premier of Queensland, case dismissed.
Senator Barnes, case dismissed.
Senator McDougall, case dismissed.
James Mathews, M.H.R., case dismissed.
Mr. Cain, M.L.A., case dismissed.
Ex-Senator Rae, case dismissed.
Henry Boote, case, dismissed.
H. S. Rocke, case dismissed.
W. Billson, M.L.A., case dismissed.
Mrs. Lilian Foxcroft, Western Australia, found guilty.
Alfred Locke, Queensland, case dismissed.
Rev. Henry Van Reil, Tweed Heads, found guilty.
Premier of Queensland, Treasurer of Queensland, Secretary Labour Executive, Queensland, cases withdrawn.
Daily Post, Hobart.
Labour Call, Melbourne.
A fair sample of the kind of statement on which these prosecutions, or, rather, political persecutions, were undertaken are given in the following: -
This was alleged to be a false statement. I hold in my hand a Christmas card from one of my constituents at the Prout showing on the back of it, the colours of six divisions; and I quoted letters from soldiers who had been transferred to the Sixth Division. Without any explanation from any member of the Government, public men were hauled before the Court and charged with saying what is not true.
– An explanation was made quite recently by the Minister for Defence.
– I have never seen any explanation. Apparently, it was after the prosecution. I asked the Minister to produce the explanation he himself had made, and what he said was, “ There is no such division.” But who would take the word of these discredited men as against the evidence of soldiers whom we know?
– The honorable member ought to know quite well what are the facts.
– If the Government took the House into its confidence, the country would know. However, to resume the explanation of some of the charges : -
Mrs. Foxcroft.” It was impossible to have military conscription without industrial conscription. More than half Australia had said it did not want conscription. If they tried to impose something the people did not want, they , would hit trouble. Why should Australia send- men to the Front ? If the worst came to the worst they might as well die in Australia defending their liberties.”
Alfred Locke, Queensland.-“ The Federal Government are paying three persons so much per week as referendum soldiers.’”
This appears to refer to the payment of returned soldiers as conscription advocates.
Further samples of the Prime Minister’s tyranny are: -
Catts). Unfortunately, one has not convicted him on law, and he is not punished, but I shall go on with the business and with your help until I do.” - Tamworth Observer, 3rd December, 1917.
These cases and incidents could be multiplied. They reveal a widespread scheme of political persecution to prevent the opponents of the Government from carrying on their campaign.
In New South “Wales, Archdale Parkhill and Percy Hunter, the organizers for the Government policy and party, made a statement that there were nearly 1,000,000 men in Australia of military age. An effort was made by us to prosecute them for making false statements, but from that date to this permission has been denied by the Prime Minister.
Similarly, in the case of the treasurer of our campaign, who wanted to ‘take action for libel against a newspaper for alleging that we sought aid from German sources, the Government have blockaded our legal action under the War Precautions Regulation.
That shows the partiality of the administration of justice in the hands of this would-be Welsh Kaiser. I was going to compare the Prime Minister with the 1 other Kaiser, but if I did it would have to be with apologies to the other “Kaiser.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) wished, action taken against the Argus for making false statements. This has been baulked. by the Government.
The Prime Minister has said something about freedom of speech in America, and by comparison sought to show what great advantages Australia enjoyed. I hold in my hand the Chicago Tribune of 11th November, 1917, containing a leading article, “ Pro-Germanism in Japan.” I was prosecuted for telling the truth about perils facing this country, and showing from undoubted authorities that Japan is only nominally and officially pro-Ally, but root abd stock, throughout every phase of its political and social life, is absolutely pro-German.
– I rise to order. I submit that that is a statement that should not be made in this Chamber. It can only have one effect, and that is to embitter the relations between us and out Allies, if it has any effect at all.
– Get your censor to work !
– I say that such a statement can only have one effect-
– Get your censor to work !
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) must cease his interjections.
– I submit that a statement like that, reflecting on one of our Allies in this war, ought not to be permitted to be made in- this Chamber, and I ask you, sir, as the guardian of the privileges of the Chamber, and responsible for the institution of Parliament, and its relations to allied Parliaments outside, in the rest of the world, to prevent such statements being made here.
– This is a matter which appears to rae to go ‘beyond the question of the mere censorship of debate. An honorable member is using his position in this House to engage in something which helps our enemies and injures our friends. I can only say, for my own part, that, if the rules of the House do not prevent this, it amounts to a kind of treason.
– What rule?
– I invite the Government, if the rules of the House permit, to take such action as will effectually prevent such statements.
– It would have been far more dignified on the part of the Minister for the Navy had he asked your ruling, sir, on the question which he has raised, instead of making the speech that he did. As a matter of fact, he went far beyond the point of order, and should have been pulled up by the Chair.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– I have no desire to reflect on the Chair. But the Minister for the Navy had no right to dictate to the Chair in the way that he did.
– The honorable member is himself dictating to the Chair.
– The language used by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) may not have been in the best of taste, but I submit that, in using it, he was quite within his parliamentary privilege. If the privileges of- honorable members can be frittered away by a majority in this chamber^ the minority will be denied the right of free speech. Already outside this building the Government have power to censor any utterance which may be made.
– And they do it.
– Yes, they do it. Ihope, however, that the. time will never come when, the House will prevent any honorable member from making any statement! that he may think proper, provided it does not infringe the Standing Orders.
– The Minister for the Navy has asked my ruling as to whether the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) is in order in making certain references to a nation which is in alliance with Great Britain at the present time. In anticipation of such a matter arising, I have had a consultation with Mr. Speaker, and I find that I am absolutely bound by our own rules and Standing Orders. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) has argued that, as a matter of privilege, every honorable member is entitled to say in this chamber whatever he may deem it necessary to say. I do not construe the privileges of honorable members in that way at all. Under our Standing Orders nobody has a right to make statements in this chamber which are calculated to embitter relations between any of the allied nations. That is my construction of our Standing Orders. Obviously, the framers of those orders were unable to make provision for every contingency that might arise, and where no special provision has been made, we are directed by standing order 1 to recognise what is the practice of the British House of Commons in similar circumstances. I am Satisfied that the Speaker of the British House of Commons would not permit any reference to be made to an allied nation of the character that was made by the honorable member for Cook. I rule, therefore, that the honorable member is not in order.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know why, if in your view the honorable member for Cook was out of order, you did not, of your own volition, call him to order.
– That is a question that I need not answer, but for the information of ‘ the honorable member, I will say that I was just on the point of doing so when the Minister for the Navy rose.
– Of course, I must bow to your ruling, sir, however much I. may disagree with it. I shall content myself with showing how wide of the mark is the statement of the Prime Minister that more liberty is allowed in Australia than is enjoyed in America, by referring to an article in the Chicago Tribune, which deals with this very matter, and in which the same statement is made that I made.
– Order ! The honorable member may not proceed on those lines.
– I do not intend to persist, against your ruling, in my criticism of the Power to which I have previously referred. Then I hold in my hand a review called The New East, which opens with a message from His Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught, a member of the Royal family. That magazine contains an , article from which I quoted at public meetings during the recent campaign, for which actionI was haled before the Court. Then there is another article dealing with the same question, published in the Chicago Tribune of 6th November. Of course, under your ruling, I am not at liberty to mention the contents of these articles. But evidently an article which it is quite proper to print in a Japanese magazine with an introduction to it by a member- of the Royal family,- and facts of importance, published broadcast in America and England, must not be mentioned in this great country of ours, notwithstanding its vaunted freedom.
– I must again ask the honorable member to obey the ruling of the Chair.
– I thought that I was doing so. I shall certainly do my best to conform to your ruling.
– Surely the honorable member is allowed to show what persecution he suffered outside.
– Order ! I shall not continue to repeat these calls for order.
– Undoubtedly, public men were persecuted.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) is quite out of order, and I ask him to refrain from interjecting.
– I have already dealt briefly with the persecution of public men.
– No; the honorable member has not been allowed to do so.
– I come now to the military partisan political censorship of the daily press in the interests of this Government and against its opponents. Last week a statement was made by a New South Wales Minister in the person of Mr. Fitzgerald, who complained of the way in which the military censorship affected public news. The Minister for Defence at once exclaimed, “I challenge him to give an instance.” Well, the Sydney Sun, on Sunday last, supplied an instance, and here it is -
On December 11, when the referendum campaign was in full swing, a cable message of 228 words lodged in London at 2.45 p.m. on December 10 and addressed to the Sun by Mr. Keith Murdoch, its London representative, described how the Australians in France were training and preparing. In the course of this message the following passages occurred : - “ Considerable sections have been playing football and attending the races and horse show’s. Some have motored to seaside resorts, the British supplying a fleet of transports for the purpose. The difficulty with football ls that the New South Wales Brigade play Rugby, the Victorians play the Australian game, and composite brigades have mixed rules. Inter-brigade contests are impossible, but there is keen competition and rivalry between battalions. Some teams claim international players, and their games attract great crowds, but soldiering is never allowed to sink into the background.”
Then follows this from the Sun: -
None will dispute that this is war news, that it is war news of peculiar concern to every Australian, that it came from London, and that it was censored. The message was delivered at this office, and after its receipt the Censor’s Department directed that the sentences quoted should be expunged. They, therefore, had to be omitted from the cable story which was printed.
Senator Pearce asked for only one instance. We have given it, and anybody who cares to read between the lines can see that it was not only censorship, but censorship of a particularly poisonous kind, because it was political censorship for party purposes. If Senator Pearce wishes for further instances he can have them, not singly, but in battalions.
We know that Ministers went about the country telling . the electors that our soldiers in the trenches were being done to death because they were unable to obtain leave, and that conscription was necessary in order that they might be given reasonable spells from nerve-racking duty at the Front.. The Labour movement is passionately devoted to the interests of our Australian soldiers, but to allow the Government to use our soldiers is a different matter. Ministers indulged in a lying campaign from one end of this country to the other - a campaign which’ would have been exposed had the facts been allowed to appear in the public press. Those facts were suppressed, not for military reasons, but for political party purposes, in order that the electors might be denied the facts necessary to enable them to base a sound judgment on the conscription issue.
– Will the honorable member give me the date of that cable?
– It is the 11th December - nine days before polling day.
It is stated officially in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st December last that from 80,000 to 100,000 persons were disfranchised on the occasion of the recent referendum. This is the official statement -
It is officially estimated that the regulation which made it illegal for persons of enemy birth or descent to vote to-day, had the effect of disfranchising, approximately, between 80,000 and 100,000 persons in the Commonwealth.
Australian-born citizens were robbed of their statutory electoral rights by a regulation behind the back of Parliament, and by men, too, who are not, and never can be, Australians. They were not disfranchised on account of their line of descent, but because it is known that the great bulk of them are young Australians, and the young Australian of all lines of descent is opposed to conscription. It was their age, and not their line of descent, that caused them to be disfranchised?
Now, let us see the attitude of this Government towards Germans. When the Australian workmen were forced on strike a little time ago, while the wharf labourers refused to have Germans in their union, or to work alongside them, this Government used Germans and other foreigners for the purpose of defeating our own Australian workmen who were on strike.
The Government are the only party in this country who have appealed to Germans for their support. I defy any member on the other side to say that any Labour man has ever appealed to Germans or any alien element for support, but I will give, the House an instance where the Government side have done so.
In South Australia an announcement appeared, printed in German, in a newspaper called Die Kirchen und Missions Zeitung, of 1st May, 1917, calling upon the Germansin South Australia to vote for all Nationalist candidates for the House of Representatives and Senate. ;
In Queensland, in the Moreton electorate, a leaflet was issued, signed by the secretary of the “ National and Liberal “ League, in the interests of the Nationalist candidate. Further, the Brisbane Courier, the Nationalist organ in Queensland, reported that the candidate, Mr. Sinclair, directly appealed for support to’ the naturalized German vote, claiming that he had always fought to uphold their interests.
In New South Wales the only seat with a German vote is that of Hume, represented by Mr. Falkiner. It was announced in the Border Morning Mail of 28th April, 1917, by advertisement, that Mr. George Daniel, a German born, and Mr. Smithenbecker, whose nationality is presumably the same, would address the Germans in the Hume electorate in the German language, imploring them to vote for Mr. Falkiner.
– I know all about Catts and Dankel.
– What is that falsehood ?
– When Mr. Dankel-
– Order !
The honorable member for Calare is out of order.
- Mr. Dankel was the member for a South Australian seat, and the peculiar thing is that the electorate of Boothby, which returned him, was the only electorate in South Australia to give a majority for conscription. The electorate in Queensland that returned Mr. Stumm - a German - was the only one in Queensland to vote for conscription.
I will give instances of the employment of Germans by this Government: -
– Will the honorable member give me particulars of these cases afterwards ?
– Yes: -
Last Tuesday I was passing Cockatoo Naval Dock, and saw three foreigners get on to the ferry boat there. I engaged in conversation with them to find out their nationality. They told me that they had that day attempted to take the Loongana, the Tasmanian boat, outside the heads, and that after being out for three hours they had to take her back with her machinery broken down. I do- not know their nationality, but all three were young foreigners, and they got on at Cockatoo Dock. According to their story they took the Loongana out after she
Had been laid up for eight months in Sydney being overhauled, and within three hours had to bring her back to have her machinery repaired.
– What is the inference in that case?
– It’ is an extraordinary thing that the Government should be employing foreigners on that boat and that her machinery should have broken down after she had been out for only three hours. I do not know whether the Government supplied those men or not. The Government are responsible, and have no right to have foreigners on British ships in Australian waters under our control. The next case is -
No doubt, a proper inquiry would bring to light wholesale evidence of the employment of aliens by this Government.
Madame Melba told us during the strike to which I have been referring that she was prepared to go on the wharf and work as a lumper against the Australian workers; yet the Sydney Sun stated yesterday that she is travelling in America with twenty-three Germans in hercompany, and is experiencing difficulties because they are not allowed to go through tunnels or across bridges on the railways.
This “loyalist” Government is prepared to allow the employment of Germans and other aliens in preference to Australian workmen in order to defeat Australian workmen on strike.
– It is only fair to say that Madame Melba has raised more money for the patriotic funds than any other Australian, but, of course, that fact will not be acknowledged.
– Madame Melba has had unique opportunities. I simply say that these people who mouth loyalty, wave flags, and beat the big drum, do not hesitate to make use of Germans and other aliens to defeat their fellow-citizens in Australiawhen a dispute happens.
The Government struck Australianborn citizens off the electoral rolls, alleging their descent as a reason. They said Australia was in danger, but is a man who knows no other country but this as his country not to be trusted to vote on a question affecting the safety of his native land? I would trust the great bulk of those born in Australia before I would trust some of those imported jingoes who care not what happens to Australia as long as they can empty Australia of its last man to render a service to Britain out of all proportion to our sacrifice.
I will now refer to some of the incidents in which the Prime Minister figured in the two referendumcampaigns.
The moment he stepped from his carriage he was surrounded by a howling mob.
The Daily Telegraph -
The moment Mr. Hughes stepped from his carriage he was surrounded by a howling mob.
The Melbourne Age -
The moment he stepped from his carriage he was surrounded by a howling mob.
The Melbourne Argus -
The moment he stepped from his carriage he was surrounded by a howling mob.
He was at Glen Innes the following day, and the Glen Innes Examiner of 3rd December stated -
The moment Mr. Hughes stepped from his carriage he was surrounded by a howling mob. Further on in the report of the Sydney Morning Herald it is stated that -
Fists were flying everywhere, and the Prime
Minister was in the thick of it striving to get at the man who had assaulted him, and who was one of the biggest men in the crowd. He was hustled and jostled by a man twice his size, but when he emerged it was his hand, not his face, that was bleeding.
The Daily Telegraph -
Fists were flying everywhere, and the Prime Minister was in the thick of it striving to get at the man who had assaulted him, and who was one of the biggest men in the crowd. He was jostled by men twice his size, hut when lie emerged it was his hand, not his face, that, was bleeding.
Exactly the same words appeared in the Age, the Argus, and the Glen Innes Examiner. This report did not come from Warwick, where the incident is supposed to have occurred, but it was wired from Wallangarra. It was manufactured on the train journey between the two stations, and anybody who has read “ The Case for Labour “ knows who wrote it. As a blind, it was signed by a man named L. Dumas, of Collinsstreet, Melbourne; a man who travelled with the Prime Minister, who was paid ?12 a week, and ?7 a week expenses in addition as publicity agent.
If, in a Court case, all the witnesses gave their testimony in exactly the same words, it is highly probable that they would all be arrested and charged with perjury.
In one cf his insane periods^ and when he could not get the police force of Queensland to act upon his ipsi dixit, the Prime Minister conceived the idea that he would create a police force of his own. Because this man became temporarily a. lunatic, the country is to be saddled with a Commonwealth police force costing thousands of pounds per annum, so that if ever he goes.off his head again he will have a Federal police force at his disposal, able to override the State laws, and plunge the country into civil war.
It is admitted that the Prime Minister stated over and over again that he would refuse to carry on the government of this country unless he had the power to enforce conscription. This statement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 15th November, 1917 -
I say now, the Win-the-War Government cannot and will not attempt to govern this country unless the people give us these powers.
In the Daily Telegraph of 26th November, in a special manifesto to the farmers, Mr. Hughes called upon them to choose between his Government and a Tudor Government, and in the Sydney Morning Herald of 28th November, when giving one of his reasons for military interfer- ence with the publication of the Queensland Hansard, he said -
Upon the decision of the people the whole future of Australia depends, there being thus cast upon the people this great responsibility. The Government having stated that unless its proposals are carried it cannot and will not attempt to govern, the Government considers it vital that the minds of the electors should not be confused by a repetition of those gross misrepresentations of facts which were the principal cause of the defeat of the referendum in 19 16.
At Geelong, as reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 15th December, he asked the farmers if they would be satisfied with a Tudor Government. A large number of his pledges made at various times and places have already been quoted ad nauseam.
The Honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) followed his chief, for the Sydney Morning Herald of 13th December reported Mr. Watt as follows: -
I notice that Mr. Abbott, MX. A., says that if the referendum is defeated he will resign. That is what most of us think. What would be the good o? trying to tlo anything for a community that has forsaken its own breed?
Mr. Watt said further;
We want to warn you in time. Wc have asked you to take heed and counsel with us. If you do not you must get some other men to govern you, we cannot.
Then, in the Melbourne Town Hall, and in the presence of Senator Pearce, Mr. Watt, as reported in the Argus of 29th November said -
The people knew that the Government thought so seriously on the matter that it would leave the seat of government if its proposals were negatived. Did the people of Australia want to be ruled by Tudor?
I come now to Mr. Webster, the PostmasterGeneral, who is reported in the Armidale Express of 22nd November as appealing to the people -
In God’s name not to again besmirch the escutcheon of their country, and to vote to give the Government ‘ the power sought, without which the Nationalists could no longer remain in office.
At Yass, according to the Age report of 6th December, Mr. Webster said -
If the referendum were not carried, the Ministry would resign within twenty-four hours, with the result that the Government of the country would be handed over to strikers, disloyalists, the Industrial Workers of the World, and Sein Feiners.
Senator Millen, as reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 18th December, was asked what would happen if “ No “ were* carried, and the Minister declared that the Government would get out of office.
Then Mr. Jensen, according to the Hobart Mercury on 7th December, 1917_, referred to the conditions under which the referendum was being taken, and the pledge given by the Government, and said -
It took n Government with some backbone to take such a course, and to say that without the support of the people they would not carry on.
Mr. Joseph Cook was a little more diffident. The Sydney Daily Telegraph of 17th November stated he had been asked a question on this subject, and in replying said -
The Government will not attempt to carry on the government of the country if “ No “ is voted.
At Parramatta,- Mr. Cook, according to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 21st November, said that the Government was on its trial; and in the Sydney Morning Herald of 15th November he intimated that the Government was absolutely unanimous on this question. I do not know where Sir John Forrest comes in, but apparently Mr. Coon should have been prosecuted for making false statements, because he said - _
There have been statements made from time to time that the Cabinet is rent over this very question - that there is a difference of opinion in the Cabinet as to what should be done in this crisis. I hope you will believe me when I say that the Cabinet is one and undivided on this matter. There has never been the slightest trouble in the Cabinet over this matter, and I hope we shall remain an unbroken Cabinet right to the end. Sir William Irvine, at Wagga, as reported in the local Daily Advertiser, declared that the defeat of the referendum meant a Tudor Government, and all Nationalists would be in honour bound to support -the attitude of the Government. The daily press took the same view, and the Sydney Sun of 28th November stated -
Inquiries in official quarters > go to show that the rejection of the Government’s proposal will not mean merely a change of Government inside the ^National party. The view was plainly put that no other course would be open if the majority is for “ No “ but for the Hughes Ministry to advise the GovernorGeneral to send for Mr. Tudor, Leader of the Official Labour party, to form an administration.
The same view was expressed in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The whole of the campaign was to be decided on two points -
The electorates, on this dual issue, voted twenty-seven electorates in favour of conscription and for the Government, and forty -eight against conscription and against the Government, and there was a * greater majority recorded of individual votes against- the Government than was recorded against any other Government that has held office during the history of the Commonwealth.
The majority recorded against the Government included a very considerable soldiers’ vote. I have a letter from Mr. McGrath, dated from London, 8th August last, in which he says that he never met a soldier who believed that the figures given to the public concerning the soldiers’ vote in the first conscription campaign were correct.
I have before me a book called The Square Jaw, which was published by two French war correspondents who visited the Australian and British Fronts. In this book they say positively and conclusively that the Australian soldiers voted down conscription. The book is published by the Overseas Club, and though it is circulated’- in Great Britain and in France, I understand that in Australia its circulation is prohibited.
– Mr. McGrath certified to the accuracy of the figures referred to.
– That is a very peculiar statement, in view of Mr. McGrath’s letter to me. In connexion with the recent campaign there were certain test votes taken of the soldiers. A “test” vote was taken at the Randwick Military Hospital, with the intention of influencing the general public, and from the Sydney Sun of 15th December, 1917, I find that the vote was stated as 655 for “Yes” and 46 for “No.” When the actual vote was taken at the referendum, a special ballot-box for the soldier’ votes was provided at the Randwick polling booth. Only those soldiers who could go to the booth voted there, and the box was afterwards taken around the beds* in the hospital. The result of that vote gave a majority against conscription of 174. I have that information from military officers who have a knowledge of the facts.
How do these Nationalists honour their pledge to the public? In a manifesto which I prepared for the party in New South Wales I pointed out early in November that the last thing on earth which the Prime Minister and his colleagues would” do would be to leave the tart shop if the vote went against them. They are prepared to sacrifice everybody and everything to what they call the interests of the country but themselves. They will not sacrifice their* portfolios, with their Ministerial emoluments, although they call upon other people to sacrifice their lives. How were affairs manipulated after Ministers came back from the referendum ? -
– That is not correct.
– I can refer honorable members to a report which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The statement was given for publication by the Prime Minister, and is signed by the Telegraph’s representative, Mr. Peters. It says - ‘
At the end of the discussion a resolution of continued confidence in Mr. Hughes was, on the motion of Mr- Wise, seconded by Senator Givens, carried by sixty-three, votes to two.
As a matter of fact that was a false statement, because while there were two dissentients, there were a number who did not vote at all. Sixty-three did not vote for the motion.
– The honorable member’s statement is not true.
– I - I have stated what was reported in the press. What part of it is denied?
– It is not true.
– Sir John Forrest also waited on His Excellency. The press reports that he was at Government House for three hours. The Leader of the Government refused to give the GovernorGeneral any advice, but I have no doubt that there was a particularly loud and intelligent wink at the time, and that the Governor-General knew that he would get the advice from his colleagues which the Prime Minister himself refused to give. This was the most extraordinary constitutional proceeding-
– Let me say that I was never at any time at Government House with Mr. Wise.
– I have based my statement upon reports in the Liberal newspapers, representatives of which were watching Government House and the ant track that was being worn from Parliament House to Government House. They reported that the right honorable gentleman went to Government House and that he took Mr. Wise.
– But you accept the Minister’s denial of that statement?
– I do; but the sources of my information are the Minister’s public press of this city. We have the extraordinary spectacle of the Prime Minister refusing to give the Governor-General advice, and his colleagues going over and offering advice,- It shows the Prime Minister’s refusal of advice was not complete, but that his own Cabinet Ministers spoke that which, for strategic and tactical reasons, for political reasons, the Prime Minister himself refrained from speaking. It shows that) these men were hanging on to office like limpets, and putting up the “ scrap “ of their lives for office that they had prepared before the resignation of the Ministry was tendered. 8”. Next day, Wednesday, 9th January, Parliament met, and an adjournment was asked for to complete arrangements. A meeting of the National party was held immediately upstairs, and I find from the Age of 10th January, 1917, that -
Immediately after the House of Representatives adjourned, members of the National party held a meeting. At its termination Mr. Hughes made the following statement : -
Last night His Excellency sent for me and asked me to accept a commission to form a Government, and I accepted it.
This afternoon I communicated this fact to a meeting of the party, at which sixty-nine members were present. The following resolution was agreed- to : - o “ That in view of Mr. Hughes’ statement, this party request the Prime Minister to accept the commission and form a Government.”
So that the party requested Mr. Hughes to. accept a commission to form a Government after he had reported to them that he had already accepted it. What a transparent piece of absolute bunkum and hypocrisy.
The Government and the party opposite think they can avoid the proper constitutional procedure in this matter. The bribe of more portfolios may keep those looking for favours quiet. But there can only be one end, and that is disaster. There was only one thing proper to be done in the circumstances. After the Government resigned, the proper course was for the GovernorGeneral to send for the recognised Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition informed him that he believed he could carry on. He should then have been given a commission to form a Government.
– Have we any information that the Leader of the Opposition did so inform the GovernorGeneral ?
– I am giving the honorable member that information. He would like to assume otherwise. I am giving the Houe the information that the. party to which I belong directed their Leader that he would be at liberty to make that statement, and I know that he did make that statement, and that the Governor-General went through this farce that was stage-managed, of getting advice from various Ministers in order to . provide the excuse that Labour could not take office.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– If it infringes the’ Standing Orders, I withdraw it.
– But it looks like it, all the same.
– I hope that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will with-draw his interjection.
– I withdraw it.
– It is well that the public should know that there was at least one alternative before the Government and the Governor-General. The proper course was to call on the Labour party to occupy the Treasury bench. Then, if the majority of members did not wish this party to hold office, if they did not agree with the war-time programme we were prepared to place before them, they could have put it out. That is what was right, in the circumstances; and although members may think that they have escaped the consequences of their action, I tell them that the longer they go on as they are going on at present the sorrier will be the mess into which they will land themselves.
Can this Government make a. success of voluntary recruiting after it has divided the country as it has done, and when Ministers are occupying the Treasury bench in defiance . of the will of the people? The Government, except technically, has no constitutional authority, and its recruiting efforts, whether by the voluntary or any other system, will not and cannot ‘now succeed. They are discredited. No intending recruit can take the word of publicly acknowledged pledge breakers.
The Leader of the Government read some old resolution passed by the Political Labour League of New South “Wales regarding recruiting in an attempt to misrepresent this party, but I would remind the House that the leader of the movement in that State is vice-president of the State recruiting body. Further, there is a Federal Labour member for each State representing our movement on the Federal Parliamentary Recruiting Committee.
The right honorable gentleman spoke of our war aims, and caricatured and misrepresented some resolutions carried at a State conference. There has been no resolution regarding peace carried by a Federal conference of the body, and no member of the Labour party of this House is bound in the matter.What the Prime Minister caricatured was a series of peace resolutions of a State conference, passed as a suggestion to the Federal conference. I shall have an opportunity, at a later stage, to put all these resolutions on record, and shall ask that they be compared with what has been said by President Wilson, and what has been urged by the Labour bodies of America and Great Britain on the” subject. The comparison will not be to the disadvantage of the Labour movement in Australia.
This gentleman, who caricatures our attitude toward recruiting, who misrepresents1 our war aims, who falsifies our position in regard to peace terms, now says, “ I ask you to join us in a coalition.” Does not that offer prove that he knows that what he has said about the ‘ Labour party is absolutely untrue? If he believes what he has said to be true,he is a traitor to his country in making, the offer. How can he ask men whom he has pilloried to join him if he believes what he has said about them ?
I do not consider his offer bond fide. Had it been, Ministers would not have hung on to office like limpets. Why has there been this underground engineering to retain his position, if the Prime Minister has been ready to leave office?
We hear, now, that he is going to London. It is Hinderstood that the Premier of New South Wales has received a long cable message from the AgentGeneral of that State, informing him that the Prime Minister is going to London, and stating the matters with which he is to be asked to deal. Australia should be represented in London by Australians, not misrepresented by imported jingoes. We had the same exhibition after the last referendum campaign. The Prime Minister then wished to scuttle back to London.
So long as W. M. Hughes leads the Government, he will be an obstacle to the harmony and union of this country. If he wishes to prove his bona fides, and to restore good feeling, let him do what the Empire asks the German Kaiser to do Let him consent to reparation, restoration and guarantees. Let him rehabilitate the industrial organizations and trade unions in their full rights and privileges as enjoyed prior to the conscription referendum in 1916, of which they have been deprived; let him restore their employment to the men who have been victimized wholesale throughout the country; let him give absolute and ‘ unequivocal guarantees that conscription for service oversea has been finally and absolutely abandoned. It does not lie in the mouth of this man, stained with guilt against Democracy, without any attempt at reparation for the great wrongs he has committed, to offer coalition to us.
– The time allowed to the honorable member under the standing order has expired.
– About a quarter of an hour of my time was occupied with the discussion of points of order.
– Hardly so much, I think. Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to continue for a few minutes longer?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear I
– The Labour party is prepared to work with any persons in this country for the national good. It worked against conscription with Liberals and with persons of all shades of political and social opinion.
– Is that what you told Senator Ready upstairs when he left you?
– The honorable memberis trying to take up my time with misrepresentation and falsehoods. I know nothing of Senator Ready’s ease exceptthe charge against the Government of briberyand corruption.
Honorable members interrupting,
– I have several times in succession called for order, and have on two or three occasions referred to the tendency of some members to interject immediately after such a call. I warn honorable members against the continuance of that practice.
– The offer of the Prime Minister is like the strategic retirement of the Government with the GovernorGeneral; it is not sincere, and is not meant to be accepted. It has never been considered by the Ministry, and is repudiated by members of the party. Not a Minister or a member will own it, although challenged to do so. They know that it is a kind of stage-acting to deceive the country.
– It is easy to put it to the test.
– So far as I am concerned, if any Government - I except this Government- on that side is prepared to set itself to heal, the differences in this country, I shall, in the absence of a Labour Government, give it loyal support on war measures, but it must set itself to cure the sores that have been caused by the Prime Minister. You cannot expect us to give you assistance when we find that, for your party purposes, you are taking advantage of the war to smash the Labour organization.
If the “ Nationalists “ show their bona fides by agreeing to the principles of restoration, reparation, and guarantees within Australia, they can restore harmony and obtain labour co-operation on a war-time policy.
We desire to co-operate with Britain in fighting the German Kaiser, but Welsh Kaiserism and Prussianism have been introduced into this country, and they have compelled our attention and diverted it from the struggle with the German Kaiser. When you have got rid of this Welsh Kaiserism in Australia, you will have taken a long step towards restoring harmony and unity here. I am ready to help, not this Government of publicly-confessed pledge breakers and union smashers, but any other Government on that side, in giving assistance to Great Britain in this war, but what is done must be based on attention to Australia’s vital needs. I am for Australia first. I made that statement in the previous conscription campaign, long before a celebrated clergyman had uttered it. The curse of this country has been that a number of men imported from overseas are more concerned about giving a little assistance to Great Britain at great disadvantage to Australia than in caring what becomes of Australia in the future. We have got into our present position mainly because there has been a dictatorship, with Prussianism and Kaiserism, in this country, which has refused to allow Parliament to consider measures for the safety of Australia or the help of the Empire. There is a means of bringing about unity, harmony, and concord in* this country; and the first step towards bringing it about is reparation for the wrongs done by this Government, and the disappearance from office of the man who is the main cause of the disruption and disunity in our midst to-day. I can quote articles from the whole of the “ Nationalist “ press of Australia in support of what I say. Two days after the last poll the Sydney Morning Herald said -
But in the conduct of two referendums and of the general election he has shown the peril to a leader in a false view of his own supremacy….. His whole conduct of the campaign shows a want of appreciation of the instincts of his countrymen, of which the most marked are resentment at the appearance of dictation or coercion, and the desire to- see fairplay between any two parties, whatever the merits of their quarrel. In this campaign charges have been uttered and threats used which make it impossible to regard Mr. Hughes as a minister of reconciliation. Reconciliation, however, is a duty which must be the foundation of the policy of his successor.
Those are not the words of a Labour man; they are the words of a newspaper that is a thick and thin supporter of the Government, and conscription. That quotation expresses the view of the great bulk of “Nationalist” opinion throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Despite the misrepresentations of our opponents, the Labour party stands where it stood at the beginning of the war - to do its utmost to help Great Britain with every ability in our power, provided that the vital and essential needs of Australia receive their due consideration; and to that end we are prepared to co-operate with all persons and institutions.
– I do not intend to attempt to answer the views or arguments put forward by the honorable member who has just addressed the House, but I can hardly congratulate one who claims to be an apostle of peace and harmony upon the manner in which he has given expression to his aspirations. It will probably be expected that one who w.as not en’tirely .dissociated from the circumstances that have led to the present extraordinary position in federal politics should take an early opportunity of stating his position in connexion with the whole matter. Reference has-been made to various party meetings. I remind honorable members that one of the unfortunate tilings in connexion with party meetings is that, there being no reliable or honorable source by which, information can be given to the press as to what takes place at those meetings, except, of course, the official communications by the leader of the party, they cannot rely in the least on conjectures which appear in the newspapers as to what has been said or done at the meetings.’ I say now, as I have always said, that in the clash of party politics we are apt to forget the infinitely more important matters that should engage our attention. To my mind, the question of maintaining reinforcements for our troops which are fightins; for us at the Front is infinitely more important than the matter of who occupies, or who should occupy, the Treasury bench. That is the position which I have always maintained, and I shall approach the matters before the Chamber from that stand-point.
The result of what has recently taken place in Australia has been described by the Prime Minister as a tragic situation. I do not think that the language is too strong. To-day Australia stands selfhumiliated and self-shamed before the world. 1 Mr. Brennan. - Speak for yourself and for your own gang !
– This country, which of all the nations that constitute the partnership of nations which we call the British Empire, this country which has received a greater dower of wealth and a greater heritage of everything that we desire in this world to possess, this country whose people stand to lose more and to lose it more certainly i than any other part of the Empire to which they belong, is the one part of that Empire which has for the second time declared that it refuses to enter into that common bond of national sacrifice into which every other part of the Empire, with the exception of South Africa, has entered. And we have done it with our eyes open. The position in which we find ourselves to-day is not entirely the fault of those who voted “No.” As I have said on many platforms, the majority of the people who voted “ No “ on the former occasion, as on this occasion, were not disloyal to the Empire.
– This is a late admission.
– I have said it a hundred times,
– The patronage 01 the honorable member is worse than his insults.
– I ask honorable members to cease interjections. .
– I do not object, to reasonable interjections in answer to some point that I have made, but interjections such as that to which the honorable member has just given utterance are of no earthly use. The man who would deny that there are disloyal elements in Australia must be blind. Of course, there are disloyal elements here as well as in other parts of the Empire. But. when we consider the enormous benefits and advantages which Australians have enjoyed, and in the enjoyment of which we are protected ; when we look at the fact that in no .other part of the British Empire does the blood which we inherited from our British ancestors flow with greater purity, it is inconceivable that the majority of the ‘ people of Australia are not infused with the same traditions, thoughts, and sympathies as those which must have infused, and must still infuse, all the other parts of the Empire that have already risen to the great MCa. sion in which we as a people are engaged. Conscription has been made the sport of party conflict, of political fears, and of political ambitions, and as the net result of all that has happened , we find that today Australia is paralyzed and inert. It is unable to carry out’ those duties which every other part of the Empire is endeavouring to carry out. Whereas Canada,. New Zealand, and Great Britain have gone on actually doing what they pledged themselves to do,- to throw in their whole strength if it might be required - Australia did so nominally at the beginning of the war - we alone, for the second time, have declared to the world, “ We’ have gone so far - by those men who felt the call . and had the courage to volunteer to face the dangers threatening the country - we have gone so far, and- we shall go no further.
Unless we can find men who voluntarily come forward to serve their country we are not prepared to enter into the same obligations and the same bond of sacrifice as other parts of the Empire.”
Before I deal with that which is the immediate purpose of the motion now before the Chair, the pledge which was given by the Government, and the position of the present occupants of the Treasury bench, I desire to review very briefly the history of the conscription question from the beginning to the present moment. The conclusion I have arrived at, as a result of that review, is that conscription, which is admitted by all but one of the members who support the Government– the exception being the honorable” member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) -to be the only way in which the safety and the honour of the country can be maintained, lias been from the beginning the subject of a series of blunders which has left Australia in a position in which for the present it is impracticable for her to shoulder her share of the burdens of the British Empire.
An Opposition Member. - You are to blame.
– I may not be blameless; all that I claim is that I have been consistent. My review dates from the time when Mr. Hughes, then leader of the Labour party, returned from Ens-land. I, with most of -my friends on this side of the House, were members of the Liberal party. But, having regard “to the views expressed by the Prime Minister and the attitude that he had adopted, I welcomed him back to Australia as the war leader of this country. Some of those who are now associated with him as followers were not entirely satisfied with the complete adherence I gave to his views and ‘leadership. I believed then that the one thing essential to Australia during that crisis - and there is just as great a crisis now - was that there should be a united and firm leadership, and I thought that in Mr. Hughes that leadership was to be found. Week after week elapsed without Mr. Hughes announcing what his policy was to be, but during those many weeks there was a continually increasing agitation amongst the Labour organizations against conscription. Public men and members of the unions were getting more and more drawn into a position of opposition to conscription - until finally, when the Labour Government led by Mr. Hughes - instead of adopting the constitutional .course, the strong course, in fact the only course that would have succeeded, namely, introducing a Bill in Parliament for the carrying out of the policy which the Government considered necessary, and taking all the risks incidental thereto - suddenly announced to the House and the .people that this, of all questions, was not to be* shouldered by the Government, but was to be submitted to a referendum of the people, there was already a consolidated anti-conscription sentiment.
– I do not think the honorable member is correct in regard to the Labour organizations. The matter was introduced to them by the Prime Minister.
– I think I am right in saying that it was the subject of Labour conferences all over Australia long before the Prime Minister returned to Australia, and it was the delay which took place after his return which enabled the anti-conscriptionists to proceed with increasing activity, until practically all the actual machinery of the Labour party was in operation against conscription before the Government policy was announced.
Permit me to say a word or two to honorable members on the Opposition side, as well as on this side, on the subject of the referendum. In his speech on Friday the Prime Minister said that the direct voice of the people on all matters of public enactment had always been a plank of the party to which he has belonged. It was never the plank of any party to which I belonged, and I am sure that honorable members opposite, however they may differ from me on most points of political discussion, will listen to me when I tell them that I believe that this practice of Parliament refusing to perform its representative duties when difficulties arise, and resorting to a machine which shunts those difficulties on to the people who elected Parliament, is, so far from being an instrument of Democracy, an expedient which strikes at the very root of representative Government; and representative Government is the very foundation of Democracy. Reference was made by the Prime Minister to a man whom he regards, and I regard, as the greatest of Democrats -
Abraham Lincoln. The Prime Minister said that the referendum had been, in the opinion of the Labour party, a means of carrying out Lincoln’s great apothegm, “ Government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but he paraphrased “by the people” by saying “ by the direct vote or action of the people.” Anybody who has studied the actions or writings of that great American will be- convinced that if anybody had suggested to him that by “ government of the people by the people ‘’ was meant Parliament shirking the responsibility of deliberation, determination, co-relation of facts, and all those abts which constitute the purpose for which representative institutions are created - that government by the people meant Parliament shuffling off the responsibilities placed on its shoulders by the people, and leaving difficult questions to be determined by the people themselves - his wise eyes would have opened in wonder and amazement at such an interpretation. The referendum was not part of practical politics in his lifetime, but I think I have a- right to infer from what I know of the man’s mind, his history, his actions, his wisdom, his deep sympathy with the people, and the high and lofty conception he had of the duties of “a Parliament elected by the people, that he would have said that we are charged with the high responsibility of bringing together all the information obtainable about any question, of deliberating it over and over again, weighing opposing views, and gradually, on behalf of the people, arriving at a decision which the people are not capable of making, not because they lark intelligence or knowledge, but because they are engaged in their own businesses, and have elected Parliament to decide these matters for them. I agree with the Prime Minister that if the result of this referendum has proved anything, it has proved that the referendum in a country like Australia, with a people like the Australians, and on such a subject, at all events, is not a fit instrument for Democracy.
Our Constitution, indeed, provides for what is called a referendum. But what is it ? Is it anything like the referendum on this subject? Has it any family resemblance to it? No. The Constitution declares that when Parliament desires to amend the Constitution, and does in fact pass an amendment of it, going through all the stages of deliberation, information, and conclusion in fashioning and perfecting its new instrument of government, it must go still further. The Constitution says to Parliament, “You cannot carry this particular law into effect without obtaining for it the assent of the people.” Honorable members will recognise that that is a veto of the people, by referendum, on an Act of Parliament carried through in accordance with parliamentary principles and methods, and to which the Parliament has given its united wisdom. But a referendum on such a question as conscription is not in accordance with the spirit of our Constitution. The Constitution declares that the laws pf this country are to be made by Parliament, elected by the citizens of Australia, and assumes thereby that Parliament is to take the full responsibility of making those laws. The Parliament must take that responsibility in the way that it has always been accepted in every British country. It must be prepared to go before the constituencies and accept responsibility for its actions. .
If there is any question which, it appears to me, ought not under any circumstances to have been thrown suddenly upon the decision of a people torn by conflicting emotions, affected by all kinds of passions, from the highest to the lowest - from the deepest emotions felt by those whose nearest and dearest are dying, to the low selfishness of the man who does not care who is dying as long as he is safe - it is the very question which has already been submitted twice to the people. It was first submitted and went to the vote on 28th October, 1916. We know the result of that vote. I am not going to dwell upon its effect, either inside or beyond Australia. From my point of view, it was deplorable. After that vote was taken, the National party was formed, and an election was held on 5th May, 1917. I propose to speak plainly on this subject, which is vital to our country. The National party was formed, and the pledge which has been so often referred to was given - the pledge that during the life of this Parliament, which was -then being elected, conscription would not be introduced, either by Act of Parliament or by regulation, without being again referred to the people. It was also part of the pledge that the question would be referred to the people if the safety of Australia demanded it. It has been said that such a pledge was essential to the creation of a National party from the heterogeneous elements out of which it could alone be created. It was also said that without such a pledge or compromise it followed that the National party would not have been able to secure its return at the polls. I join issue with both of those positions. I contend that it was possible to form a National party without any such compromising pledge at all. I say, , moreover, that I believe, and am justified in the belief, that although without that pledge the general elections of 5th May last would probably not have returned to Parliament such a large number of National members as it did, it would assuredly have returned them with a good working majority.
What was the result of that general election ? The result was that which was acclaimed as a huge victory. In fact, it created a hobbled Parliament. Everything that has happened since that time has been the result of that unfortunate and false position. After that, need I refer to the humiliating record of the voluntary system of recruiting? I think the greatest efforts were made by the Government ana by the Director of Recruiting, by means of those agencies which he had then at his command, to appeal in every possible direction to those who had not yet seen their duty in this matter. We know, as a matter of fact, that the result was a gradually diminishing stream of recruits. That stream became practically a trickle, obviously, clearly, and demonstrably incapable of fulfilling the requirements of our troops at the Front. Putting aside altogether the general promise which bad been made by Mr. Fisher, and indorsed by the whole of the people of this country, that we would give our last man and our last shilling, it was obviously incapable even of supplying the reinforcements necessary to maintain those divisions already at the Front.
– After all, there were 47,000 recruits last year.
Forrest) possibly unlike myself, is in a peculiar position with regard to the point to which we are now coming. As far as I understand it, he is the one member of the Government who did not give his adhesion to the statement that the Cabinet would not, and could not, continue to carry on the government of this country without conscription. That being so, he is free. But what I was about to say was that the stream of reinforcements, or of voluntary enlistments, had become so extremely small - and week by week it was becoming smaller - that all the members of the Government except the Treasurer (Sir John Forerst) joined in declaring to the country that the voluntary system had demonstrably and finally failed. That was true.
– It was not true.
– It is absolutely true, and is involved in the statement made by a responsible Government that they could not carry on without conscription. In November last, within, I think, six months of this party going into office to try to enable Australia to take her proper part in winning the war, to endeavour to carry out- Australia’s part by the voluntary system, they had cast upon them the onus of stating to the country that they could not continue the government of the country, and would not attempt to do so, without conscription. That implies, if it does not express, a complete and final condemnation of the voluntary system as a means of securing recruits. That was my position at that time. That was the decision to which the Government came. I am not at all concerned with the various views put before the House as to what led immediately to that decision. The Government met on Wednesday, the 7th, after having been separated for some weeks ; and I think I am right in assuming that, in the exercise of their own judgment, having regard to the terrible events in Europe, they saw that conscription was necessary - that the time had arrived when there must be conscription, or they could not continue to carry out the policy on which they were elected as a Government. The decision was certainly arrived at in a hurry ; and my main” regret is that the members of the ‘Government did not take into their counsel, not necessarily myself, although I should have been willing and anxious to tender personally the advice I had tendered on the platform, and show reasons for it - but other men capable of forming a judgment as to the trend of public opinion in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, not to mention Western Australia. If the Government had given a little time to the matter they would have found that amongst the strongest supporters of the conscriptionist policy the antagonism to deciding it by referendum was growing, and had grown, to very great proportions. That is a point on which I regret the Government did not take time to get advice. I believe to-day, notwithstanding the vote that has been given, that a different conclusion would have been arrived at; that had the Government taken time to seek and consider the advice of the greatest supporters they had in the policy to which they had pledged themselves, they would not have again gone to the people by referendum, but would have had a general election in the ordinary constitutional way. Had they done that I believe they would have succeeded; if not, they would, at all events, have gone down with their colours nailed to the mast, and would, in a constitutional way, have thrown the whole responsibility on the other side to find the policy that would succeed in maintaining our forces abroad. There is one criticism about going to the country on such a question which I have heard from several persons; that is, how would the appeal of the House of Representatives on such asubject relieve the members of the Senate from the pledge they had given ?
Mr.McWilliams. - A very awkward position !
– A very simple position. We have first to ask what the pledge was. The members of the Senate did not give any pledge other than that the Government gave. It was not worded in any other way, and related to no other time or period or subject - it was the same pledge, and it was a pledge they gave by supporting the Government. What was that pledge? It was made on a general election of members of this House, and was limited to the duration of the Parliament then being elected ; therefore, the pledge of the members of the Senate was necessarily so limited.
– They were elected on it.
– I have said they were; but what was it? They were elected on the pledge, that the Government would not, during the life of the Parliament then being elected, introduce conscription by regulation or Act of Parliament.
– The Senate is not elected by the same constituency.
– That may be so, but the pledge related merely to that period; and the interjection shows, not that the honorable member has not attempted to follow me, but that he has not succeeded in following the argument. However that may be, the pledge related only to the duration of the Parliament then being elected, and to one question. When it is said, as it will be said by some of the supporters of the National party outside, and, probably, believed by many inside the House, that a dissolution would not have resulted in the victory of our party, even with reduced numbers, I desire to point out that even the vote which has been taken, under all the disadvantageous circumstances - some of which I shall refer to presently - was a vote turned by only the per cent. of the people who voted - that is, if we could have got that 31/4 per cent, to vote “ Yes,” the result would have been the other way. After all, it cannot be considered an overwhelming “No” vote. It is a decisive “No” victory; and my friends opposite are entitled to thebenefit of that; but to draw from that the inference that if the Government had gone to the country it would necessarily have lost its whole majority, is, in my opinion, not at all proved.
I know that a member who suggests, directly or indirectly, to his fellow members, a dissolution in any shapeor form, is about as popular as a nurse who comes into a ward with a large jar of treacle and brimstone, the latter predominating. I do not expect, nor have I at any time expected, such a suggestion to be popular with the majority of honorable members on either side; but that suggestion is, of course, rendered impossible from our point of view on this side by the vote which has been taken. Common sense shows us that, having put this issue to the people - in the false way, as I claim - by referendum, to immediately afterwards, in a constitutional way, ask them to reverse their vote, would be a hopeless political procedure. I cannot help thinking that, unless something even more serious if possible than the present position of the war arises, it would be almost impracticable for Parliament, without dissolving, to do what in my opinion it .ought originally to have done - exercised its own judgment on its own knowledge, and passed the legislation necessary for the war. That is the result of the referendum vote - we are politically crippled for the time being. In view of the war as it presents itself now - in view of the fact that, as we learn from the news, hundreds of thousands of our foes are massing in an endeavour to break our line, which we have failed, or are about to fail, in” taking our share in maintaining - in view of the terrible danger that still threatens us, a danger greater than any during the war, excepting, perhaps, at the beginning, and, possibly, at one period since, when the Germans nearly got to Calais - at such a time the interests of parties, or of a Government, do not- weigh at all, as compared with the great issue of how Australia is to be got to perform her part. The majority which has been obtained against conscription is, as I have said, a per cent, majority. But we must also regard the matter from this point of view : that many considerations besides the mere exercise of the judgment that conscription was not necessary influenced that vote. I do not think that any of mv honorable friends opposite will deny that the “No” vote included the votes of many thousands of persons, and especially of women, who did not deliberately exercise a judgment upon the war necessity of conscription for Australia, but who simply could not, and would not, take upon themselves the responsibility of directly voting to send somebody else’s son to the Front.
– Did not that influence operate also in the case of the “Yes” vote?
– I do not see how it could. But we know that it applied to the “No” vote. No sentimentalist would vote “Yes” unless he felt impelled to do so by a strong sense of duty, but a great many people voted “ No “ because sentimentalism influenced their judgment. It is this ‘consideration which accounts for a considerable portion of the “No” votes. It applies not merely to women, but also to a large number of men who acted from sentimental motives! But there is still another element which must be taken into acx count in connexion with the ‘ ‘ No ‘ ‘ vote. I have already referred to the fact that prior to the decision of the Government to put this question to a referendum, there had been for some weeks a perfectly clear and strong expression of opinion amongst thousands and thousands of the strongest supporters of Conscription throughout Australia - especially in New South Wales and Queensland - against the adoption of that course. They desired that Parliament should shoulder the responsibility which rightly belongs to it. If the Government contemplated doing such a foolish thing as submitting the question of conscription to a referendum, obviously the very worst time to do it was when their own supporters were advising that it should not be done. When the Government practically said to their own supporters, “ You must adopt this course whether you like it or not,” manifestly they could not expect to excite the strongest enthusiasm amongst them. I believe that amongst those who abstained from voting “ Yes,” the number of which was not in;considerable, were many persons who, perhaps, either did’ not strongly desire conscription, or were not violently opposed to it, but who. strongly resented having put upon them the responsibility which directly attached to Parliament. Considering all the circumstances of the case, the result was, I think, amazing. But the result of a referendum has no constitutional effect whatever. The Constitution requires the Parliament of Australia, elected by the people of Australia, to make the law 3 of Australia. By implication tit excludes the shirking of that responsibility by. throwing it on to the shoulders of the people. The mere taking of a referendum is to act contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution.
An Honorable Member. - If the first referendum had been carried the parties in Parliament might not have given effect to it?
– Exactly. The carrying of a referendum does not carry with it any constitutional power. A “Yes” vote would not have vested Parliament with any power which it did not previously possess, and a ‘ ‘ No ‘ ‘ vote does not take away from Parliament any responsibility that was already thrown upon it. Its only effect has been to create an enormous amount of irritation which militates against active service in war. Owing to this unfortunate step, for practical purposes all our activities have been paralyzed.
I am not going to say anything about the conduct of the campaign. I admit that it was not all that I desired. There were many things in it that I did not approve.
– The honorable member did not protest against the methods used by the Government.
– The honorable member knows that though I absolutely disapproved of the referendum being used to decide this question, and though I was backed up in my1 objection by many of the strongest supporters of conscription, as soon as the Government decided to submit it to a referendum, and to stand or fall by the result, I threw all my energies behind them and urged all my friends to do likewise. When once the Ministry engaged in a campaign of this kind, a public protest against the means adopted by its leaders would have been an act of hostility which would have tended to weaken them. Had I protested I would have been doing my best to kill conscription. However, I do not intend to discuss that question now, because there are much greater matters claiming my attention. But, as the Prime Minister has said, I did make certain representations to him in reference to the censorship. I do not agree with everything that has been said in this connexion, but I do say that the Prime Minister endeavoured to conduct the campaign which he had started with all the powers in his possession, and under these circumstances those who did not desire to hurt him were bound to help him.
– The honorable member thinks that the end justified the means.
– I do not. Far from it. However, I am not going to discuss that aspect of the matter now.’ There are much weightier questions affecting my mind at the present moment. The net result of the whole business to date is that we have gone on the wrong path from the beginning, . and we have stuck to that path, notwithstanding that we knew it was the wrong one, until we have hobbled Australia and, in my judgment, disgraced and dishonoured her before the world. In these circumstances, we have no option but to wait until we can release her from her self-imposed shackles and enable her to again take her place amongst the free family of nations to which she belongs.
I come now to the pledge which was given by the Prime Minister, and which forms the subject of this motion of no confidence. It will be within the recollection of honorable members that, as soon as that pledge was given, I stated publicly that I thought it bound not merely the members of the Government but the members of the party supporting the Government, unless they disclaimed it. I do not pretend to be the judge of any other man’s conscience. I may be entirely wrong in the view I took. Every man moist form his own opinion as to his own action in that respect. All I know is that’ I declared that the pledge bound me, and that I would be bound by it.
– Would you take a disclaimer from any other member of the party as an act of hostility?
– A disclaimer during the campaign? I do not know that I would. I do not feel competent to judge any other man’s position in this matter. All I can say is that I stated my own position definitely; that I could not be a member of a Government which would attempt to govern without the powers of conscription. That was my position. That is my position to-day. I find that other members in this party expressly disclaimed being bound by that pledge. Many of them, without expressly disclaiming being bound by it, believe that it was not made on their behalf, and that they are not bound by it. As to the latter part of that, I took a different view; but the fact remains. The referendum having been defeated, and the pledge having been given by the Government that it would not continue to govern, without conscription, in the circumstances which have taken place are the Government, or the members of the Government - because this is a matter, not of the Government, but of the members of the Government, from the Prime Minister down - maintaining that pledge in spirit, as well as in effect? Let me review exactly what happened, so far as we know it. Having myself indorsed the pledge, having countersigned it, so to speak, having thrown the whole of my political existence ‘behind it, for the present, at all events, or so long .as the circumstances exist, I feel more bound, perhaps, than other members are to see that that pledge is honorably observed. What took place was this : It is true that we see here, at the present moment, a Government consisting of the identical members of that Ministry which, a few weeks ago, said they could not continue to govern without the power of conscription. They to-day occupy places on the Government bench, although not intending, so far as weknow, to introduce conscription, or an equivalent for conscription, at present. That is a position which every one, inside and outside the House, must see requires a justification. The question is, “ is the justification sufficient “ ? Soon after the “ No “ vote was recorded, the Leader of the late Government (Mr. Hughes) tendered the unconditional surrender of his position to the Governor-General. He attached no conditions to it. The Governor-General was then absolutely free. In the natural course, he sent; for the Leader of the Opposition. I do not know, nor do I seek to know, what advice the Leader of the Opposition gave, but, apparently, he was unable to give an assurance which the Governor-General could accept that he would be prepared to form and carry on a stable Government. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) certainly said that his party authorized him to give that assurance.
– And, what is more, it was given.
– We are not entitled to ask the Leader of the Opposition, nor do I ask him, if it was given; but, apparently, he did not give an assurance to that effect which was satisfactory to the Governor-General - whether he gave it at all or not - because he was not given a. commission to form a Government.
– It does not fit the statement of your case to have that fact in.
– I do not think that is an argument I should meet. If there is one thing honorable members will give me credit for, whether they agree with me or not, it is an attempt to state the case fairly. There was, of course, [l-09- another course open to the GovernorGeneral, and it is of some importance in connexion with the present position of the Government. He might have granted to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), had he asked for itr a dissolution. That is of some importance, because the unconditional surrender by the Prime Minister of his commission, throwing the whole unlimited power into the hands of the GovernorGeneral to exhaust the House, or to ascertain by what means he could find a stable Government, made it quite possible, for the Leader of the Opposition to ask for, and possibly obtain, a dissolution, whereby he might have received, according to his own view, the support of .the country, and been- returned with a party large enough to carry on a stable Government.
– It is a certainty that it would have been refused.
– I do not know that it was refused; but we are entitled to refer to the memorandum of the Governor-General in regard to the matter.
– Whose memorandum?
– His Excellency’s memorandum, in which he pointed out that the first thing in his mind was that there should be no dissolution, if possible, so soon after an election had been held. We must not accept’ what appears in tile press, and we have no means of knowing,- nor in some respects have we any right to inquire, what was in His Excellency’s mind; but, exercising the prerogative of the King, he appears to have sought, from what he deemed reliable sources of information, to ascertain the state of parties in the House, to see if any other Government could be formed on this side of the House. Having apparently come to the conclusion that there could not, he called again on the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hughes) to try to form a Government.
– And it was arranged by the meeting that that should be the position.
– That is absolutely incorrect. The honorable member is not going to get me, by making a statement of that kind, to break the seal of secrecy which ought to surround party meetings, but I tell him that that statement is absolutely incorrect.
– The position was created to render any other course impossible.
– The honorable member may take all the press reports of everything said from the beginning to be entirely incorrect. Statements were made in the press about a speech supposed to have been made by myself at that meeting - a report which has gone from one end of Australia to the other and been commented on - in which, amongst other things,-, it was stated that I had acclaimed in the very highest terms of praise all the conduct of the recent campaign by the Prime Minister,. One cannot contradict all these statements at such a time without giving away something. If you say you did not say something, they ask, “ Then what did you say ? “ So that the best and fairest tiling, in the circumstances, is to say nothing. The honorable member for Yarra, then, was unable to form a Government. The Governor-General decided, at that stage at all events, that it was undesirable, in any circumstances, to grant a dissolution. That necessarily, therefore, threw him back on this party as the only source from which a stable Government could be formed. The Governor-General appears to have satisfied himself on the information he obtained that there was no other source than the leader of that party, no other man who could form a Government capable of carrying on the government of the country. ‘
– We were told that all this ‘juggling would take place, so there is no need to explain it.
– I should have liked to hear from the Prime Minister some statement to the effect that he did all he could to enable another Government, to be formed from the party which has a majority in both Houses, but which would not include those members who had said they could not and would not carry on without conscription. I assumed that something of the kind was done. I have no right to inquire into the communications that passed between Mr. Hughes, Mr. Cook, and any other members from whom the GovernorGeneral sought information, but we had a right to assume that each member of the Government satisfied himself that he individually had made every effort to see if a Government could be formed from the ranks of those not bound by the pledge. I do not feel entirely satisfied with the position.
– In view of the circumstances you have just narrated, do you think that members of the Government who made definite pledges to the country are absolved for having broken them ?
– That pledge would be fulfilled by the new Government introducing a measure of conscription. That is one alternative. The only other alternative is to regard the Ministry as a Government of necessity, and of last resort. The first alternative may be placed on one side, because the immediate introduction of conscription is out of the question.
– Immediate? Why emphasis on the immediate?
– It appears, therefore, that the justification for the present position is the reason which apparently the Prime Minister himself relied upon, namely, that the resources of the House were exhausted.
– You have no proof of that.
– No, and I should like , an explicit statement on the point from the members of the Government. This goes beyond any question of party. The course taken by the Government has to be justified before the public, and I hope that we shall have a statement that every effort was made by all the members of the Government, before they resumed office, to see if it were not possible to form a Government out of the same party with a majority in both Houses, and which would be able to carry on without raising any question of dishonouring pledges. The Government have taken office with a heavy load of responsibility, and I want to say plainly that, if they contemplate carrying .on by patching up the old voluntary system to secure a few more recruits, or in any way minimizing the immediate duty which is cast upon the country at the present time, to obtain reinforcements, assuredly they will be accused, and not with impropriety, of not having kept full faith with the people. Whether they can justify themselves in assuming office under existing circumstances will ultimately depend upon how far they can carry on without introducing, if not conscription, some equivalent alternative which will secure the men necessary to maintain our reinforcements.
So much for the past. “We are more concerned with the future, and the duty which lies upon the Government rests equally upon every member of this Parliament. If anything, it is laid more heavily upon members opposite, because they are the people who blocked the only effective way of securing reinforcements. In the discussion of a vote of no confidence it is not usual to indulge in any remarks that are not of a party nature, but I want to break through that rule by saying that I have never stated that the majority of those who voted against conscription were iti any way governed by sentiments of disloyalty. I recognise that that Official Labour party, of which Mr. Tudor is the Leader, is, like every other party organization - including members supporting the Government- a mixed party, and contains various elements within its ranks. No doubt it has behind it all the elements to which I refer, including the elements of disloyalty, but the bulk of its support comes from the ranks of labour as represented by unionism iu Australia, and as regards that part of the party I appeal to Mr. Tudor to beware of the influence of the extremists who, from time to time, would foi-ee the party into a false position. I have never said, and I do not say now, that that party is disloyal. I believe the great body of the unionists are absolutely loyal- and that they have given ample evidence of it.
– Not many on your side of the House said that during the campaign.
– Well, I said so throughout the campaign. They have given an earnest of their loyalty by sending thousands of their sons to the Front. We cannot for a moment suppose that the bulk of those artizans and workers who sent their sons; or who allowed them to go to the Front, were disloyal .
– We do not accept that; they went voluntarily.
– I am nol quibbling with words but dealing with facts. We have hundreds of thousands of artizans bound together as they have been in the past in what they deem to be a war against capitalism, and wrongs which they believe they suffer here. But they are as loyal as any other people in this community.
– The honorable gentleman asks their co-operation after striving to crush them by conscription.
– I shall not attempt to discuss the question whether the conscription movement was one against unionism. I do not know what motives actuated various people. It is possible that some persons may have had what the honorable member suggests in their mind, but it was certainly never in mine. It is possible that the thing that defeated conscription amongst a great body of the people was the influence exercised upon them by the dread that existed amongst the loyal section of the workers that the conscription movement was directed against unionism.
– It was a wel.founded dread, too.
– I do not think that it was well founded. I know of nothing which would lead - to that inference, but I know that it was the chief weapon used by honorable members opposite.
– What did the Courier say in Queensland after the first referendum ?
– These frequent interjections are disorderly.
– Very often in this House when one is expressing his own opinion he is suddenly asked what did somebody else say. I am asked that question now by the honorable member for Barrier, and I will say that I do not forget that the Barrier sent a very large number of men to the Front.
– And the Barrier also turned down conscription.
– Without aggressive innuendoes or any reference to what other people have said let me remind honorable members that the main thing we have to consider is the most effective way of dealing with the position as we find it.
– I was only taking up the honorable gentleman’s own statement that his p’arty is as mixed as ours is.
– Order ! The honorable member for Barrier is out of order.
– The result of the present imbroglio, the present difficulty with respect to the Treasury benches and the position of the present Ministry is quite a secondary matter compared with, the vital question, “ What are we going to do here in Australia ? How are we going to meet the problem with which we are faced?” That is the question we have to consider.
– That is for honorable members opposite to say.
– Is it really for us to say? We said that we would try to secure certain powers. Honorable members opposite, and those who have agreed with them, have refused those powers. Surely it is for them now to make a suggestion.
– Honorable members opposite say they have fifty-three, and that we have only twenty-two and are not fit to govern this .country. Let the fifty-three have a try.
– That is another line of argument. I . think that the Leader of the Opposition is endeavouring to draw a red herring across my trail. Whether or not he has a sufficient number of members on his side to enable him to form a Government and give effect to his policy, it is certain that he1 has quite enough members on his side, if they are earnest citizens of the Commonwealth, to help the majority in this Parliament to carry out some policy to assist Australia. I think that we may, therefore, call upon the honorable gentleman, as leader of the party that has deliberately and intentionally defeated what we believe to be the only method to save the honour of Australia, to come forward and make suggestions.
I have strenuously endeavoured to avoid referring to any of the irritation aroused by the recent conflict. I hope that nothing I say will increase the bitterness and irritation which the reference of such a subject to the people necessarily created. We have to look to the future, and to decide what is to be done. I should like to make a suggestion for honorable members opposite to think about. Apart altogether from who mav be carrying on the government of the Commonwealth, could we not have a conference of three or four honorable members from each side to talk quietly over ways and means to meet the necessity for reinforcements? I do not suggest anything like a War Council such as we had before. For one thing that Council consisted of too many persons, and was a sort of small Parliament.
– It had no power.
– It had no power, and I do not suggest that the conference I propose should have power, but could we not get into consultation in some way? I have been a conscriptionist; and, perhaps, the most consistent conscriptionist here but I shall do my best tq assist in making alternative suggestions until such time as that policy can be given effect, if necessary. There are certain suggestions which I should like to make. I believe that if we came together and discussed in an informal way all the possibilities of the very difficult position in which we are, we might arrive at something which, though not entirely in accord with the views of either side, would represent a workable way out of the supreme difficulty and danger in which our country stands at the present time. That is a suggestion which’ I venture to throw out, and any assistance I can render in that direction will be willingly given.
– Does the honorable gentleman speak for the Government, or is this a personal suggestion ?
– It is a purely personal suggestion. Intentionally I have not mentioned it to any member of the Government, because I desired it to be taken as a suggestion from myself for what it is worth. I believe that it is quite possible, without throwing the Government into the hands of the honorable member for Yarra and his party, that we should receive the full support and assistance! which, when the present bitterness dies down, I feel sure they will be prepared to render. I have taken longer than I intended, but I have felt that in “ the existing circumstances and at this time it is no longer right or safe for people who hold such strong opinions as I do on that which I regard as vital to the future safety and honour of the country to remain silent. It is for thi3 reason that I have taken advantage of the present opportunity to state clearly, if not fully, the opinions I hold.
. - The honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat is always worth listening to, and, perhaps, most of all, when one most disagrees with him. Certain of his statements this afternoon have left me in some doubt whether he sees his way as clearly as he usually does. His arguments seemed to me to be somewhat laboured. He was evidently speaking with’ difficulty, because of certain things in his mind that he said during .the referendum campaign, and which he found it somewhat uncomfortable to remember at this particular juncture. In regard to his last suggestion I might be allowed to say that the Labour party stand today in regard to the war exactly where it stood when the war broke out. The manifesto we issued to the people in 1914 represents our policy to-day.-
– That policy was to form a National Government.
– No, at that time we refused to form a National Government. At that time Mr. Cook also refused to form a National Government.
– Honorable members opposite asked him to do so. It was their suggestion.
– We made no suggestion for the formation of a National Government in 1914. That was made by Mr. Hughes on his own responsibility, and without any authority from the party. Mr. Fisher was our leader at that time, and only he could act on behalf of the party or make such a suggestion.
– What does the honorable member think of a party that allowed Mr. Hughes to do it, and took no notice whatever of it?
– Mr. Fisher disclaimed it immediately.
– No, he did not; he did so only when he came back to the House.
– It was not necessary to disclaim it, because Mr. Hughes had no authority to make the suggestion, and it was therefore valueless so far as the Labour party were concerned.
– You were quite content to enjoy what credit there might be in it.
– May I remind the honorable member for Flinders, in regard to the suggestion he has just made, that there can be no objection at any time to members of this House conferring in regard to the war, and I challenge him or any other man on that side to say that this party has at any time shown lukewarmness or lack of interest in the war, or that it has opposed the proposals of the Government, except in the matter of conscription, for the carrying out of the war. We have clean hands and a pure record so far as our connexion with the war” is concerned. When suggestions have to be made, we shall be as ready to offer them as* we have been hitherto. But it was strange to hear the honorable member for Flinders, whose political experience is so great, say that it is our duty t to offer suggestions to the Government.
– If you have anything to suggest, I suppose you will be willing to offer it ?
– I do not think that at the present time it is our business to offer suggestions.
– If you know of something that will help Australia in her difficulties, will you not. offer it?
– It is time enough for the doctor to prescribe when he has been called in.
– That is purely a party sentiment.
– I am not_ actuated in this matter by party spirit. It was at the suggestion of the Liberal party that the Labour party was not called in. We do not object to that. Whether we like it or not, the decision of the GovernorGeneral is binding on us. We are not complaining that we were not allowed to form a Government, but we say that the Government in power must propound its policy, so that we may know where we can assist it, and where we may find it necessary to oppose it. The Government are responsible for the carrying on of the administration of the affairs of the country. Members of the Liberal party were elected to “ win the war.” If now, after ten months, Ministers are so barren of ideas that, having been refused the power to conscribe, they are” compelled to plead to the Opposition for suggestions, they should not continue to occupy the Treasury bench. The honorable member for Flinders has said that the immediate introduction of conscription is out of the question. I am sorry that to that extent he has abandoned his position. He has been looked upon as the high priest of conscription, which he has hitherto advocated in all circumstances. He is reported’ to have said at Hawthorn, during the recent campaign -
The people of this community will probably have to submit to compulsion for the performance of services which are not merely fighting in the trenches.
Further, Sir William Irvine stated that notwithstanding another “ No “ majority,, he would still be ready to bring conscription in, no matter what the cost, no matter what the difficulties. At Bathurst, on the 1st December of last year, he said -
Conscription will come, if not in the way proposed by the Ministry, then in another. If the people will not take the responsibility of sanctioning conscription by a direct vote, Parliament must take the responsibility of enforcing it by Act of Parliament. The issue is the National Government with conscription against the Labour Government without conscription. No. Government formed on the National side would allow conscription to be dropped.
If what the honorable and learned gentleman said then* is right, how does he justify his present statement that the immediate introduction of conscription is out of the question? Is it because there was a heavy “ No “ majority against conscription, or is it because of any change in the situation? Before and during the conscription campaign we were told of the gravity of the position, and it was said that only conscription could save Australia and the Empire. May I ask the honorable and learned member what would justify the introduction of conscription ?
– The possibility of. carrying it.
– That is a doctrine from which I entirely dissent. It embodies a moral standard which I do not think the honorable gentleman would apply generally. The doctrine that a thing is justifiable only because it will succeed is a very regrettable one. The only reason why a thing should be done is because it is right. The people of Australia have a second time, by a greatly increased majority, said that conscription must not be employed in our share of the war, and that declaration should be accepted by the Government, by tho honorable and, learned member, and by every one else as final, unless they are prepared to again stir up the animosity, bitterness, and antagonism which, unfortunately, was rife during the recent campaign, and which the honorable and learned member has deprecated. We want those feelings to die down, and the sooner the better. It is the desire of every honorable member of this Parliament, without exception, that Australia should make every effort she can in this war; but unity of action cannot be secured while conscription is still talked about. The honorable and learned member for Flinders, will render a service to the country, and greatly assist his own cause, if he stops talking about the introduction of conscription, either in the immediate future or at any other time. He said that he had not accused us of being disloyal, and that he believed that the majority who voted “ No ’ were not disloyal. May I remind him of a speech which he made at Dandenong, and which was reported in the *Art/ug of the 12th October, 1916, as follows:-
What we did on 28th October could never be undone. The honour of Australia once lost could never be regained. The fight was between patriotism .and .disloyalty. The man who voted “ No “ was a man who was willing to weaken the arm of the Government at this time, and he who would do that in a national peril was a traitor to his country. The Government was supported by the whole of the Opposition, while the opponents of the Government were supported by the Industrial Workers of the World. He who voted “ No “ would strike a deadly blow at the honour and safety of his country. Were there any present who were willing, on 28th October, to have their names enrolled on the ragged; sickly regiment of pro-Germans, disloyalists, and the Industrial Workers of the World ? When those at the back of the hall heard the truth there were few who would enroll themselves in that regiment.
It is very good, even at this belated time, to find the honorable member for Flinders willing to give credit to those who voted “ No,” or to the majority of them, by saying that they were not actuated by disloyal sentiments; and it will go a long way towards allaying the differences, disruptions, and antagonisms rampant in the community to-day if he will induce the members of his party, the Ministry, and particularly the Prime Minister, to drop their continual gibing at members of this party that they are pro-Germans, that they are disloyalists, and that they are indifferent to the Empire’s needs. Even now, because I claim that members of this party should not be asked to offer suggestions, it is said that we are prepared, from party feelings, to let the interests of Australia and the Empire go. The less we hear of that statement the better.
– But that is really what your attitude amounts to.
– It .does not amount to that. I deny that there is any reason for the recurring insinuations that honorable members on this side of the House are indifferent to Australia’s share in the war.
The honorable member for Flinders claims that Ministers can only justify their acceptance of office under the present circumstances by introducing some measure of conscription or its equivalent. Are we to take it that the honorable member can see no other way of carrying on the war than by imposing conscription ?
– Every other way has failed, so far as Australia is concerned.
– That argument cannot be substantiated. The DirectorGeneral of Recruiting does not admit it. Some time ago the Age said that it lies in no man’s mouth to say that voluntarism, has failed ‘ in Australia^ and Senator Pearce, speaking in Sydney on 21st October, made the statement that we have no reason to be ashamed of what we have done.
– We have done nothing. What has been done has been done by our boys.
- Senator Pearce said that all the suggestions that had been made as to the withdrawal of Australian divisions at the Front, or as to the failure to secure reinforcements, were absolutely untrue, because every” Australian division had been kept at its full strength. As the right honorable the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest) reminded the honorable member for Flinders, no less than 47,000 men were enlisted last year. Of course, the figures are lower than in the previous year, but the stream of recruits, as the reservoir from which it is drawn is depleted, must necessarily decline. No other country can show such a record in regard to voluntary recruiting as Australia can show.. No disparaging utterance worthy of credence, or that can be substantiated, can justify any complaint in regard to Australia’s response in this war. It has been simply magnificent.
Let me again object to the continual references to sending sous to the war. Unionists whose sons are at the Front object to the suggestion that they sent them. We take no credit for the fact that our sons have gone, except that it be that we are proud to be the fathers of lads who have recognised their duty. The suggestion, of their having been sent through the operation of some form of domestic conscription comes only from the conscriptionists.
– -The suggestion came from the honorable member. It was for that reason I interjected that we are not sending the men.
– The honorable member for Flinders made the remark.. When my boy was in camp, it was thrown up at me that I had not sent him. Unionists, who are so splendidly represented at the Front bv their sons, who are saving and guarding the honour of Australia, did not send their boys, and therefore I hope that the honorable member will also drop that kind of talk. The honorable member will find that it is quite easy to justify what has been done through voluntary recruiting. I trust that he will remember that the young men of Australia have responded willingly and nobly. There is no need to suggest that they were sent by their parents, or that they had to be forced to go for economic reasons, or otherwise.
The honorable member for Flinders made a very unfortunate remark at the beginning of his speech when he said that Australia stood self-humiliated and selfshamed. He is entitled to his opinion, but I do not think that it comes with very good grace from any one to suggest that the people of Australia were actuated by motives other than those which appeared to them sufficient to justify their voting as they did. It was a most unfair and uncalled-for remark that the Prime Minister made when he suggested that many of the people who voted “ No “ had led the Government to believe that they would vote “Yes.” He practically accused his supporters of perjury. The honorable member for Flinders should be above making such a petty and unfortunate remark as to .say that the people of Australia are selfhumiliated and self-shamed. Honour’s wounds are always self-inflicted. The people of Australia are not in the least degree humiliated or shamed by the vote given on the 20th December last. People in other parts of the world do not agree with the honorable member for Flinders. The Pall Mall Gazette, according to a cable published in the A ratu on 26th December, commenting upon the result of the referendum, said -
The Pall Mall Gazette (Unionist) says that it is important that the significance of the
Australian Reinforcements Referendum result should not be misinterpreted. It points out that the vote does not mean war weariness or retirement from the conflict, and that, although conscription has failed, it does not necessarily follow that the Australian divisions will be left with inadequate reinforcements.
Even in Canada, it is cabled that while the Canadian papers expressed some astonishment at the result, they would continue to believe that Australia was whole-heartedly for the prosecution of the war. These quotations show that people in other parts of. the world do not concur in what the honorable member for Flinders has said regarding the recent decision. So far from the people of Australia feeling humiliation “or shame, they have a feeling of relief and pride; they glory in the fact that they alone, among the nations of the world”, have dared to be free of the curse of militarism. The poll which was taken in 1916 was the greatest blow for freedom that the world has ever known; and, after another twelve months’ experience andfuller knowledge and further investigation, so far from conscription being more attractive tothe people of Australia, it has become, like vice - a monster of so frightful mien,
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen.
While the honorable member for Flinders was speaking I was thinking how true was the remark made of him by the Prime Minister on 17th April, 1914. Speaking on the Address-in-Reply, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hughes) said of the honorable member for Flinders, who was then Attorney-General -
Democracy asks him for a reform, and he gives it a speech. Plutocracy asks him for a lawand he gives a Coercion Act. I say that if the honorable and learned gentleman goes down to his political grave, upon his gravestone there should be written this epitaph - “ For the people he did nothing but make speeches, but for the plutocrats he did everything that was in his power to do.”
The speech he delivered this afternoon shows that he has no definite policy other than conscription; bereft of the power of conscription, he is politically bankrupt. His only idea of carrying on the war is by compulsion, and he pitifully appeals to the Opposition to assist with suggestions as to how Australia shall continue to play her part. Australia will continue to fight in this war. There can be no difficulty in securing a continuation of the magnificent response the Australian people have already made,. and if the Government are ready to hear suggestions, let them declare their policy, and they will find that members of the Opposition are not at all unwilling to give every assistance in the prosecution of the war.
The honorable member for Flinders tried to make a point of the contention that conscription ought not to have been the subject of a referendum. With that argument I entirely agree. From the time that the conscription proposal was first brought forward my attitude has been that human life and religion are not fit and proper subjects for a referendum decision - that no majority, even though it be 99 per cent., has any right to bind an individual in regard to those most intimate andsacred personal matters.
– You do not take” that view in regard to liquor reform.
– No, because liquor reform is not a matter of individual personal, but of social and mutual, relationship. In saying that conscription ought not to have been submitted to a referendum, thehonorable member for Flinders is again unfortunate, because at Dandenong, on the 26th January, 1917, he said, “ He did not think it would be foolish to appeal again to the people on the conscription question,” and Mr. Holman, the Premier of New South Wales, said on 24th October, 1916, “I see no reason why conscription, if defeated, should not be introduced again and yet again.”
– He did not say that at the time of the State elections. He is a. nice one to talk about broken pledges !
– The pledge given by Mr. Holman and the New South Wales candidates for the State Parliament was quite explicit -
We declare that the issue of conscription, having been referred to the people of Australia and decided by them in the negative, is settled. We accept unreservedly the verdict of the people, and will give no support to any endeavour to again raise the question.
To-day the honorable member for Flinders says that conscription ought not to be the subject of a referendum; a year ago he did not think it would be foolish to appeal to the people again on that question. Possibly he will suggest that the qualification he makes is that the matter should be referred to the people as a matter of Government policy, as an issue vital to the life of the Government
– He said he preferred to refer it to the constituencies at a general election.
– Yes, and before the second referendum was taken he advised that an election should be held at which conscription should be made the vital issue. Even now he is in favour of an election with conscription as the vital question. I confess that I fail to understand the difference between submitting the question by referendum and submitting it by way of a general election.
– Some of our people see a difference.
– The difference is the possible effect on the positions of members in this House, especially members such as the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), in whose electorates substantial majorities were recorded against conscription.
– There was an anticonscription majority at the first referendum, but I won my election.
– The honorable member won his election in exceptional circumstances, for there can be no doubt as to the influences which were operating at the last general election. My point is that the question, of conscription ought not at any time to be referred to the people. To begin with, I do not think it was the right policy for the Government to adopt. If the Prime Minister had had the courage he professes to have, and which some people wrongly attribute to him, and had introduced into this House a policy of conscription when he returned from London in 1916, that would have been the act of a statesman. I believe conscription would have been carried in those circumstances, and from some points of view the result would have been much better for Australia than the holding of two referendums, because they have stirred up so much trouble that they have been a very unfortunate experience for the whole community.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.J/.5 p.m.
– I call attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed.)
– I cannot recall a single instance where, during the time that I have had the honour to be a member of this House, we have had so bitter a personal attack as that made by the Prime Minister in replying to the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in submitting this motion. Surely for the time being the Prime Minister must have forgotten the position he occupied. His disparaging references to the Leader of the Opposition and .the character of his speech generally came with exceeding bad grace from the Leader of the Government of Australia. Whatever may be the intellectual deficiencies of the Leader of the Opposition they are more than made good by his honesty of character. It is rather interesting to note that in the Melbourne Herald of the 10th instant) - and I think it was the only Melbourne newspaper to publish the message - there appeared a cablegram setting out that in commenting upon the possibilities of the political situation in Australia -
The Times characterizes Mr. F. G. Tudor, Leader of the Official Labour party, as an experienced, administrator. It adds that his direct methods, honesty of purpose, and sturdy loyalty to convictions during his parliamentary career have earned him a large amount of public confidence.
When we remember that this opinion is in direct and severe contrast to the opinion which the public generally hold with regard to the Prime Minister, we can well understand why he should feel so jealous of a man less brilliant than he is, but having to his credit a record of honesty of purpose and of loyalty to conviction.
The Prime Minister complained that the Leader of the Opposition in his speech had made no reference to the great war. I venture to point out that this noconfidence motion is riot an attack upon the Government because of its war policy. It deals entirely with the conduct of affairs during the referendum. When the Ministry are prepared with their war policy, if they have ohe - when they come to the House and say what they propose to do now that they have been denied the power of conscription - it will be time enough for the Opposition to submit a motion of want of confidence in the Government policy, or something in the nature of an alternative. This, however, is not the time for the Opposition to do anything of the kind. The censure motion now before the House deals entirely with four different matters relating to the conduct of the Government during the recent referendum and to those four different matters - the pledges of Ministers, the censorship, the prosecution of public men, and the denial of Statute public rights to Australian-born citizens - the Leader of the Opposition confined his speech. In regard to the Bendigo pledge, the position is clear and explicit. Speaking at Bendigo on the 12th November, the Prime Minister gave a leadto his party and to the country. He said -
We who were elected on a Win-the-war policy tell you plainly that the situation in Russia and Italy is such that without the power to insure reinforcements we cannot give effect to the policy which you approved with such enthusiasm last year.
I tell you plainly that the Government must have this power. It cannot govern the country without it, and will not attempt to do so..
That pledge was repeated in almost parrotlike fashion by nearly every member of the Ministry, and by a large number of their supporters. Every speech made by them was punctuated with threats as to what the Government would do if they did not get this power. The threat of resignation was the one thing perpetually held before the people. As I have previously mentioned, the honorable member forFlinders (Sir William Irvine) stated clearly at Bathurst on 1st December, and it was repeated by a number of the supporters of the Government, that the question before the country was conscription, with the National Government, or no-conscription with a Tudor . Government. The pledges were quite explicit, and that they were so understood by the country is easily gathered from the way the press andthe people referred to them as the campaign proceeded, and have since referred to them. I propose to make a few quotations from the Melbourne newspapers as showing how the country interpreted the Bendigo pledge. I shall quote from the Argus, the Age, and the Herald, and a reference to the files of newspapers published in the other States will show that the same interpretation was placed upon the pledge in every State of the Commonwealth. The Age of 4th instant wrote -
The Bendigo declaration binds honest men as firmly as an oath. Mr. Hughes and his Ministers must surrender office, and allow others to take the responsibility. … A resignation on one day with the intention of immediately gaining a new lease of power . . would be a fraudulent design to deceive and betray. . . . The party could not hope to maintain its repute amongst decent men. . . The dishonour contemplated by the vicious device to reconstruct under the same leadership. …
On 7th January, the Age wrote -
Unless the Government retires absolutely and unconditionally it will have been guilty of an act of public betrayal. . . . The
British Empire is at war to defeat the odious spirit that counts national treaties “ scraps of paper,” and in fighting against the pollution of the world by German dishonour, one of the Dominions cannot countenance a dishonourable German trick. . . . Unless he (Mr. Hughes) honours the Bendigo pledge he must fall never to rise again, and the party that followed him . . . must ultimately be swept aside in ignominy.
On 9th instant, the Age wrote -
In rejecting the Government’s proposals the people were also rejecting the Government. . . . The responsibility must pass definitely and absolutely to others. There must be a new Government, in which neither Mr. Hughes nor his Ministers could have a part.
He and his Ministers would brand themselves as men unworthy of trust. . . .
Were the old Ministry to seek to come back, the Ministerial party must assist at once in removing it from office, or become brazen abettors of its offending. …
The Age newspaper supported the Government throughout the conscription campaign, and is supporting them now, so that it is open to the same criticism that it directed at those who are supporting it in this House.
The Melbourne Herald was just as emphatic. It is interesting to note that it headed its criticism of the action of the Government in regard to. the Bendigo pledge with this quotation -
God give us men ! A time like this demands Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill,
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy,
Men who have honour, men who will not lie,
Men who can stand before a demagogue,
And scorn his treacherous flatteries without winking.
Tall men, sun crowned, who live above the fog, In public duty and in private thinking,
For while the rabble with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions, and their little deeds, Mingle in selfish strife; lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land, and waiting justice sleeps.
The Herald, on the 4th January, said, referring to the Prime Minister -
If the pledge he gave during the referendum campaign is to be ignored, or is to be regarded as a mere piece of irresponsible platform rhetoric, politics in Australia will have descended to the lowest depths it has ever reached. The political morale will be immediately lowered ; a wrong and undignified precedent will have been set up. … If the Ministerial party were now to attempt the work of legislation in oblivion of the gage thrown down by the Prime Minister, it would supply a historical instance of cynical political callousness, and would bring upon Australia the contemptuous regard of the Empire and of the Allies.
On the 9th January this statement appeared in the same paper - “ It will not satisfy the popular sense of honour if the Ministry merely resigns, and then, through any circumstances that may appear to have been directed to a factitious end take up the reins of government again. The Ministry gave a distinct pledge which must be unconditionally carried out. - On the 10th January the Herald said -
It is said by the apologists that the pledge given by the Prime Minister during the referendum campaign has been duly honoured, but the arguments are weak and specious, and will not find durable acceptance. The general conviction, when the mists have cleared away, must be that ‘ the tone of Australian politics has been” lowered.
But the Argus, is, perhaps, the most interesting of all newspapers in ite comments. It is significant that the Argus heads all its articles with this legend -
I am in the place where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth 1 speak, impugn it whoso list.
That was the statement of a great man, made under great circumstances. This is what the Argus said on the 3rd January -
While the giving of the pledge was unwise, to violate it would be immoral, and it is unbelievable that Ministers think for a moment of refusing to honour their bond. . . . No other course consistent with honesty is open than the resignation of the Hughes Ministry.
On the 4th January the Argus said -
If Mr. Hughes, re-elected to the position of party leader after his resignation, attempts to govern the country he will violate the pledge. . . ; To resign, and within a short time to take “up the reins of government, is plainly an evasion of Mr. Hughes’ undertaking, and is a negation of Mr. Watt’s declaration, “You must £;et other men to govern you; >6 cannot.” Resignation and subsequent resumption of office are not even a keeping of the letter of the pledge, and they are an unmistakable violation of its spirit.
Here we have plainly expressed, and in rather strong terms, the opinion held, not only by newspaper ‘editors, but, I feel bound to say, by a large portion even of the people who supported the Government during the last referendum. The Government have found a way out of the difficulty by resigning and immediately taking up office again. The Argus of the 10th January found an excuse for Ministers, although this is the pape* which tells us -
I am in the place where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth I speak, impugn it whoso list.
On that date the Argus said -
Mr. Hughes, in pursuance of his pledge, gave up the attempt to govern. He tendered the resignation of his Government, and it was accepted. He did, in truth and in fact, refuse to carry on the government of the country. . . The Nationalist party has accepted Mr Hughes’ action as a fulfilment of his undertaking to the electors. He and his Ministers refused to govern. . . . The Nationalist party has resolved to honour its pledges, implicit and explicit. The Ministry must now carry out the wish of the party by continuing to govern. No other Ministry would be acceptable to the party.
– You used to seek his brains, and now you seek his head !
– I do not say that we ought not to seek the Prime Minister’s brains, and use them to every possible advantage. It is interesting to notice how Mr. Hughes and his Ministry, as well as the members of the party, interpret that pledge. They said , “ We have kept our pledge and have resigned, and the GovernorGeneral has said that we are still the people to carry on the government of the country.” M»v Hughes is my authority for the statement that he, after making his statement in the Caucus meeting, after his return from Government House, was requested by ‘his party to accept a commission to form a Ministry.’ They regard the pledge given by the Prime Minister as having been satisfied, and all honorable conduct fulfilled, by a resignation at 10.30 a.m., and the reacceptance of office about 10.30 p.m. on the same date. During the interval, we are told, the Governor-General satisfied himself that Parliament had been exhausted in regard to those who were qualified to carry on the government. I hold the opinion very strongly that, the Ministry having resigned in order to keep their pledge, the Governor-General had no other course open to him than to send for the Leader of the Opposition, and invite him to form a Ministry.
– Catts. - The Prime Minister would not give the Governor-General any advice, but the other Ministers gave him a lot !
– No doubt the Governor-General was able to get advice from suitable sources. If the Leader of the Opposition was willing to form a Ministry, and undertake the responsibility of government, it was no question for the Governor-General as to how long the Leader of the Opposition could carry on.
– The Opposition had not the numbers.
– That was not the business of His Excellency, but the business of Parliament.
– The honorable member has a misconception of the position,
– I am taking the constitutional precedent followed in every country where there is responsible government. Every Governor-General - the King himself-
– I must ask the honorable member not to criticise the action of the GovernorGeneral or involve the name of the Sovereign in debate.
– I do not desire to do so, but merely to point out that, constitutionally, the Leader of the Opposition ‘ ought, without question, to have been invited’ to form a Government, and, if he were willing to do so, the responsi-bility of the Governor-General should have ended. It was for this Parliament to determine, probably in a very short and summary fashion, whether the Leader of the Opposition should be allowed to carry, on’; indeed, the Prime Minister said that the Government formed by the Opposition could not have existed for more than a few hours. No one could have complained, because the majority must rule.
When I listened to the Prime Minister explaining how he had kept his pledge, I could not help thinking of that portion of sacred history in which we are told -
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before th« multitude, saying, “ I am innocent of the blood of this just person; see ye to it.” Then answered the people, and said, “ His blood be on us and on our children.”
We have almost a parallel position created here by the Prime Minister, who, washing his hands, says, “ I have resigned ; I have been an honorable man,” and the party accepts the responsibility and. the blame. Then, in King Lear, the Fool says -
That, sir, which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.
History supplies most useful illustrations of men placed in somewhat similar circumstances, and who have acted as the Prime Minister has, and, fortunately, these men did not all occupy very high places in public life. The Prime Minister in The Case for Labour said -
I do not for a moment deny a man’s right to change his opinion. I only deny his right to break his word, solemnly given to his fellow citizens. If he, finds, after election, that he can no longer conscientiously support those* measures to which he is pledged his course is quite clear. Let him, before such measures are put . to the test, resign his seat and contest the electorate upon his changed opinions. If returned, he can with honour do that which he desires; but he cannot, and ought not to be allowed to do this until the people to whom he pledged himself have formally and constitutionally ratified his change of front.
I could have understood the right honorable gentleman taking such a -line of conduct if the Ministry had sought a ratification of their conduct by the electors; if they had resigned their seats and gone to their constituents, and said, “Here is the position in which we find ourselves. Are you prepared to ratify our conduct?” That would have been the act of honorable men; but not one Minister, suggested that they should take up any such attitude. An American writer dealing with American political history says in his book -
The life of a political party … is maintained by a scheme of subterfuges in which the moral law cuts ho figure . . . but one law, success.
In referring to a prominent American politician, he says: -
Honest and dishonest - cruel and tender - great and mean - a party leader who scorned public opinion - a man of conviction; yet the most unscrupulous politician - -“a philosopher who preached the equality of man, yet a tyrant who hated the world and despised al] men.
I invite honorable members to read in our Parliamentary Library a book by Lord George Hamilton, entitled Parliamentary Reminiscences and Reflections. In it the writer, referring to Mr. Gladstone, says -
If you believed in him he became a parliamentary super-man - if you suspected him or detected him in what you believed to be tricks, then dislike rapidly hardened into repulsion and wholesale distrust. So it came to pass that, no statesman has, as supporters, a more devoted- clientele, or as antagonists, more irreconcilable opponents. The latter group was constantly augmented by colleagues who left him on his riot too infrequent abandonment of his previous principles, and their place was taken by political recruits representing the recently enfranchised and less advanced sections of political thought.
Later on, the author says -
Statesmen’s words are supposed to derive influence, not from their volume, but from their weight. . . . The process of degeneration is continuous and rapid. The statesman becomes more and more merged in the politician, the politician in the partisan, the partisan in the election agent, reckless as to the means by which he wins, provided only that he does win.
That is exactly the sentiment which was propounded in this House to-day by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine). When I asked him what would again justify the submission to the people of the question of conscription, he replied, “ That it should succeed.” It does not matter by what method one wins, provided only that he does win! Undoubtedly, that has always been the policy of the Prime Minister. We find it acknowledged by hi3 own political friends, who have called attention to his conduct and his position. We have, for instance, the remarkable statement by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) -
The greatest concern is how long is Australia going to allow this calamitous mountebank Hughes to thrust her face in the gutter.
– Order !
– Then we have the remarkable attacks on the Prime Minister and his party by his life-long political friends in New South Wales, in the persons of Mr. Hall, Mr. Beeby, and Mr. Holman. I intend to quote only the view expressed by Mr. Holman, who says -
I have long known that Mr. Hughes is a man whose pledged word is absolutely worthless, but I confess I am amazed and depressed to find that the whole of his colleagues have joined him in this exploit. I can only attribute it in certain cases to a sense of mistaken loyalty to a man who has never been loyal to anybody or anything.
– By Jove, that is Satan reproving sin, all right.
– That being the standard of political morality that he has set up - that being the estimation in which the Prime Minister is held by men who have been intimately associated with him all his political life - how can we expect the general public to do other than share that opinion ? The feeling in Australia to-day is that our standard of political morality has been so lowered by this subterfuge on the part of Ministers in retaining office that one is led to wonder whether anything influences their conduct save the desire to maintain themselves in their positions, and to keep themselves comfortable.
I notice that in the resolutions carried by the National party two things were evidently borne in mind, first, that on no account was the Official Labour party to have a chance of forming a Government, and secondly, that there should be no dis-. solution. The first was a calamity which was to be opposed by every possible m’eans. and the second embodied one of the reasons which the GovernorGeneral submitted as actuating him in his refusal to commission the Leader of the Opposition to form a Cabinet. Very well. Perhaps these things will be resurrected later. Certainly the memories of the people have received an impression during the nast three months which can never be forgotten, and which will inevitably rise up to haunt those who will seek their suffrages at the next election.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) does not want ‘a dissolution.
– I am quite cer- tain that many honorable members opposite do not desire a dissolution. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) does not.
– Nor does the honorable member for Brisbane.
– No, Now that I am in Parliament I do not see why there should be any more elections. Nevertheless, when they come along I shall not. run away.
I wish now to pass from the personal stand-point in regard to theBendigo pledge. I am content to leavethat matter to the decision of the people. By-and-by Ministers will have to face their masters, and the referendum which will then be taken” will resurrect a good many of the statements which have been made in the press and on the platform during the past three mouths. The Prime Minister in the course of his speech last Friday endeavoured ‘ to create an unnecessary alarm in the minds of honorable members and of the people of this country. He said -
By a hair’s breadth we stood on the edge of a precipice.
I have heard again to-day of the gravity of the situation which confronts us. . I do not desire for a moment to minimize the seriousness of the position in Europe. No honorable member can view, with anything approaching complacency, the situation as we find it to-day. After three aud a half years of war we have still to ‘confess that we have not made the progress which we feel we ought to have made with the resources at our command. I do not think that we are out of the wood yet. I believe that there is still a long road and a hard road before the Allies. While some of the statements concerning the position of the Central Powers may be exaggerated, I believe that they yet possess heavy reserves of power, and that there is a good deal of hard, solid, serious work before the Allied Forces. But I am far from believing that the position is as serious as the Prime Minister would have us believe. In his speech at Bendigo on 12th November, the right honorable gentleman said -
If Russia were to withdraw it would give the enemy a crushing superiority in numbers long before the power of America could make itself felt. And how would it fare with the British and French armies ? … In face of the latest news of the internal conditions of Russia and of the Italian debacle, who shall say that the tide of battle has not turned against thu Allies? . . . Never since the war began has the position been graver? . . You stand now in grave danger. . . . The situation … is black with portents of evil.
That was repeated by his Ministers’ and members of the party, and by speakers on that side on the conscription issue, almost at every meeting. Senator Millen, at Brisbane, on 3rd December, said -
Up to the present the tide of war had gone with their ‘ opponents. Up to the present Germany was neither ‘ broken nor beaten. . .
The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook), on 19th November, at Chatswood, stated -
But yesterday and every prospect seemed fair. To-day the barometer is set stormy. The war clouds are lower and much more threatening. The tide of battle sets against us.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), at Bundaberg, on 11th December-
– Is that where he got the stones and dead cats?
– That was after his “stony” experience. His statement was -
To-day they were standing on the brink of a volcano. . . . The war situation was never so black. …
The position in Europe to-day was blacker than a*t any other period in the war, and that was from the stand-point of the Allies, whose position was critical and fraught with more danger than ever before.
The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Watt), at Sydney, on 12th December, said -
The present position was as black as it well nigh could be. The cables that came to the Australian Government were blacker still. The war position was pregnant with possibilities of irretrievable disaster to the Allied nations.
It is remarkable that the New Zealand Times characterized Mr. Watt’s statement, “ The present position was as black as it well nigh could be,” as an untruth, an electioneering indiscretion employed to influence votes for conscription. The New Zealand Minister for Defence went further and said, “ The Australian Government could not have received information from the Imperial authorities which would not have also been sent to the New Zealand Government, and nothing similar to what Mr. Watt said had come to New Zealand.” ‘ I do not believe the Government had any authority to make these statements; neither do I believe that they were correct. I do not believe this Government is in possession of any more information than any other Government, or that they know any more than the public about the war situation. When Mr. Holman, the Premier of New South Wales, was recently in London, he was banqueted at the House of Commons. Mr. Bonar Law, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made some very nice references to the part Australia had played in the war, and Mr. Holman, in reply to the toast of his health, made a statement to this effect, “ I appeal to the Imperial Government to take the Dominions more into their confidence. We have a right to know more of the position of affairs in Europe, but we are being kept in the dark. Australia, that has done so well, has a right to be told exactly what the position is, and what the aims of the Allies are.” The London Times reported that Mr. Hodge, the Minister for Labour in the Imperial Government, dramatically rose and said, “ I can assure Mr. Holman that lie knows as much about the war as we do. I am a member of the Imperial Cabinet, but I know no more about it than Mr. Holman does.” Yet the Prime Minister and his Ministers would have us believe that th’ey know more than is given to the public.
– Was it not bad enough to know that Russia and Roumania were out of it, and that there had been that set-back in Italy ?
– I shall deal with that immediately. On the same day that Mr. Hughes spoke in Bendigo, Mr. Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, spoke in Paris. He said -
Weight of men, material, and morale are on our side, whatever may happen in Russia. I do not despair even of Russia, but even if I despaired of Russia my faith in the ultimate triumph of the Allies would be unshaken.
That was reported in the Melbourne newspapers. Two days later it was published that Major Sir Philip Sassoon, Private Secretary to Sir Douglas Haig, had said “that nothing that the enemy could do on the other Fronts could prevent his ultimate defeat.” Sir William Robertson made the following announcement, which was reported in the newspapers on the 10th December -
This year wo have taken from the Germans more prisoners and more men, and four times as many guns, as wo have lost to thom during the whole of this war.
A newspaper published in the Old Country stated on the 29th November, 1917 -
We feel it in our bones that the end is not far off, and bid our countrymen and our Allies take heart of grace. There is enough food in Germany to last out for a few months longer, but ammunition is running short; the best of the Army is already killed or maimed; money is tight; the crews of the Fleets are restless and almost mutinous; the civilian population is becoming impatient. An early end to the war is clearly written on the wall. Yes, the end is in sight.
I have a statement made by General Smuts, a member of the Imperial War Cabinet, and cabled from London on 18th September. He is acquainted with the exact position of affairs, and his word can be taken with absolute confidence. This is what he said -
Can any one doubt the growing feelings of terror which possess Germany as she sees the nations range themselves side by side against her? Her food problem is becoming daily more and more acute, her economic future hopelessly compromised, and her name more and more detested. To-day the Allies had won, and the Germans knew it. Germany’s military victories in the East cannot outweigh her defeat in a world sense.
Here are two quotations with regard to Italy, one published in a newspaper on 8th December, containing a statement by Signor Nitti, the Italian Minister for Finance, that, “If Italy receives sufficient artillery and ammunition victory is certain;” and another, published on 10th December, containing a statement by General Diaz, Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Army, that “ The morale of the Italian troops is splendid, and they are absolutely confident of victory.” Here is the suppressed cable, dated London, 10th December, sent out by G. L. Gilmour, the special correspondent for the Australian and New Zealand Press Association, who, after visiting the Front, said -
The Australian Forces to-day are scattered from the coast to the front line trenches. Since the fighting of Passchendaele, the Australians and New Zealanders have had an easier time. The mcn never were more fit. They have obtained a considerable amount of leave to visit England or Paris. Football has now become an obsession. They play Rugby and Australian Rules, and Soccer, and the results of the inter-battalion contests are almost of as much consequence to the men as the latest wireless communique from the Cambrai Sector. Between football and drill the men are not long idle. The New Zealanders especially arc at home in the present weather conditions. They are happily placed in pleasant surroundings remote from the lighting line, and are billeted in villages.
Since the referendum was taken the annual report of Sir Douglas Haig, dealing with the operations for 1917, has been published. In it he says -
Therefore, without reckoning the possibilities which were opened up by the gains in Flanders, and without considering the effects in the other theatres, there is every reason to he ‘ satisfied with the results achieved. The additional strength which the enemy obtained, or may obtain, from events in Russia and Italy has already been largely discounted, and the ultimate destruction’ of the enemy’s Forces has been brought appreciably nearer.
On the 3rd of this month there appeared in the press a statement by a high British military authority to the following effect -
Reviewing the year, the expert said that the Allies held most of the high ground and the ridges, and the position was better than ever before, but the public must be prepared for us to lose some of our ground, prisoners, and. guns in the event of a big enemy offensive.
The Italian position has improved, and time is on our side there, he added. The admirable Italian defence has resulted in heavy Austrian losses. Snow is now falling heavily. Altogether the position is satisfactory.
Yet the Prime Minister, with no inside knowledge, although he would have the people believe that he has, tries’ to create alarm in our minds, and in the minds of the people, that we are worse off to-day than after the battle of the Marne.
– Does the honorable member think that Australia has done enough ?
– I am not suggesting that for a moment. My object is to show that what the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General, as well as other Ministers, said during the referendum campaign, and what was echoed by their supporters in regard to the seriousness of the position, was not justified by the facts. The quotations I have given are extracts from speeches made by Mr. Lloyd George, Sir Douglas Haig7 and other responsible military authorities, whose statements are absolutely in contradiction to those made by the Prime Minister and his supporters. If it is true that things aTe worse now than ever bef ore, then we must .have been fed up with countless lies during the past few months, because one has only to look at the headlines in the papers to see records of success after success, and victory after victory.
– It has been the same for the last three years and a half.
– I deny that the outlook is as bad now as when the Germans were within . sight of Paris, or when the Turks were sniping our men across the Suez Canal, or when General Townshend and his command were forced to surrender in Mesopotamia. We are in a better position to-day than ever we were.
Mr.- Webster. - That is more. than you can say.
– But I point out that I am not giving my own opinion at all. I am quoting the views of responsible authorities, and, as I have already said, they are in direct contradiction to what the Prime Minister has said.
– You are quoting to suit yourself.
– The quotations are from the newspapers, and if any twisting has been done, the charge must be against the newspapers, and not against me. Might I point out that if the position is so black to-day, then it amounts to a confession of incompetence and failure on the part of the Government, which set out to win the war? After having been in office for about eight months, they tell us that the position is worse than before. “ We have lost the war; we stand on the brink of a volcano; on the edge of a precipice,” said the Postmaster -General ; and, said the Prime Minister, “ Unless we get conscription, the tide of ‘battle having turned against us, defeat is certain.”
– Did not the PostmasterGeneral introduce a Bill for marriage by proxy to win the war?
– Let me point out, further, how inconsistent the Government have been.over this matter. Last year they said that 16,500 men a month ware necessary, and that nothing else could save the country.- They tried to make us believe that the War Council had asked for that number of men.
– Do you deny that?
– I do.
– Then you would deny anything. -Mr. FINLAYSON.- I challenge the Prime Minister to produce the cable from the War Council asking for the 16,500 men per month. The Postmaster-General was a member of the Caucus when the Prime Minister was challenged at a private meeting to produce the cable, and he could not, or did not. Neither do I believe that this later cable, asking for 7,000 men a month, has been received from the War Council.
– How many men do you think are wanted ?
– Every man that is willing to go ; neither more nor less.
– What argument did you employ when you were appealing for recruits ?
– If, last year, 16,500 men per month was the minimum, and the position has now become so grave that we are standing on an edge of a precipice, as the Prime Minister told us last Friday, how can it be said that 7,000 a month is all that are required ?
– The military authorities are employing scientific methods now.
– If what the Prime Minister has told us is correct,- then, instead of asking for a smaller number than last year, the Government should have no hesitation whatever in calling upon every man, and there would be no doubt about securing the services of a large number if exaggerated and contradictory statements had not been made about the position. No one believes that 7,000 men a month are required to replace the casualties. Neither do I believe that 7,000 men. a month would be more than a drop in the bucket if the position is as bad as the Prime Minister has said.
– Do you not think that the men who have been there for three years should be allowed to return home?
– I believe that every man who was included in the first division that left Australia should have been returned to Australia before now. The -fact that those men have not been returned is not due to anything for which Australia is responsible, nor is it because of any lack of reinforcements, and certainly not entirely because of a shortage of shipping. I suppose every honorable member of this House has, at different times, made applications for the return, for domestic reasons, of- a certain number of men from the first division.
– There are only 120,000 men in the fighting line now.
– I do not want to traverse the figures concerning’ the men at the Front; but I am certain that’ any movement to secure the return of men in the first division would receive the unanimous support of every member of this House.
– Why are they not returned ?
– Because the Imperial Government has charge of the military operations.
– You know what is the reason.
– On Friday last the Prime Minister said that every member of the Labour party subscribed to the 1914 manifesto. I admit that all Labour members on this side, as well as those now supporting the Government, subscribed to Mr. Fisher’s manifesto, which read as follows : -
Our interests, our very existence, are bound up with those of the Empire. In time of war half measures are worse than none. If returned with a majority we shall pursue with the utmost vigor and determination every course necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth and the Empire in any and every contingency.
We still hold to that manifesto,.
– But you did not carry it out.
– We adhere to every statement contained in it, although some honorable members may suggest that we have not carried it out. I contend that we have been loyal to that statement of policy from the beginning of the war, and are loyal to it to-day. Our opponents have thrown up to us the question of the last man and the last shilling, but it is strange that,- though the manifesto was issued in 1914, Mr. Hughes and those members of the Labour party who are now with him and the National party never once suggested that either the manifesto or the statement in regard to the last man and the last shilling meant conscription. Indeed, Mr. Fisher himself, on the 25th September, 1915, said -
The Labour Government is pledged to a policy under the Defence Act of compulsion limited to local defence. This is not only on our platform, but on our statute-book. 1 am irrevocably opposed to conscription.
That was twelve months after the manifesto was issued, and no complaint was made. The Prime Minister said in this House on the 16th July, 1915 -
In no circumstances would I agree to send men out of this country to fight against their will. If the day ever comes when men will not fight when their country is at death grips, it will be because the country is rotten to the core and not worth fighting for.
That was said nearly twelve months after the issue of the manifesto. Mr. Fisher, Mr. Hughes, and every other member of the Labour party up to the time Mr. Hughes returned from London was an anticonscriptionist, and the policy of the party was then, as it is now, anti-conscription. The Prime Minister stated on Friday last that amongst the other false statements circulated during the referendum he had been accused of having said, “ What does it matter what we thought yesterday f” I am sorry that he is hot present, because I have here a quotation giving the exact words he used. On the 10th September, 1916, when announcing the policy of the Government in regard to the referendum on conscription, he said -
While I have favoured compulsion for home defence, I have hitherto been against compulsion for oversea service. But now iron circumstance compels me, as it has compelled others, to disregard that distinction. We are faced with facts, and we must not turn aside, and so attempt to evade that which cannot be evaded. What does it matter what we thought, yesterday ?
Up to the time the Prime Minister re« turned from London, not a single member of the Labour party, and not even a member of the party then in opposition, suggested that Mr. Fisher’s pledge of the last man and the last shilling was recognised by the Labour party as meaning conscription.
– Excuse me, I did, from the beginning of the war.
– Then the honorable member, put an interpretation upon Mr. Fisher’s manifesto which the Labour party did not put upon it, and do not put upon it now. Something must have happened in London to have caused Mr. Hughes on his return to become a conscriptionist. I notice that the English Labour Leader, on 14th September, 1916, said -
It is quite evident that before the notorious Mr. Hughes, of Australia, left this country, he and Mr. Lloyd George concocted a little plot, by which Mr. Lloyd George was to assist Mr. : Hughes in establishing the Prussian military system in the great democratic community of Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the Prime Minister having been forced by the action taken by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) to propose a second referendum on conscription, and in replying to that, the right honorable gentleman said -
Those who knew him would know that he had never allowed himself to be driven by any man.
I can remember one or two instances which are opposed to that statement. When Mr. Fisher, who was then Prime Minister, was in South Africa, and Mr. Hughes was . in charge of the Government here, a number of members on hie own side, led by the late Mr. Roberts, the then member for Adelaide, proposed an amendment in the Defence Bill. Honorable members who were here will remember that the moment the amendment, was carried against the Government Mr. Hughes reported progress on the Bill. During the dinner adjournment he summoned a meeting of the Caucus and demanded to know where he was. As a result of that meeting he came down here after the dinner adjournment, and, like a little lamb, allowed the amendment to go through. But he was never driven by any man ! I can remember that on another occasion he came to a Caucus meeting and tried to induce us to withdraw a certain Bill . He pleaded with us to withdraw it, and pointed out how bad it would be. The Caucus said, “ No, we, are going on with that Bill,” and Mr. Hughes came down from the Caucus room to his chair at the table and made a splendid speech in favour of the Bill he had opposed upstairs. Yet he was never driven by any man ! When he came back from London, he said to the Caucus, ‘ ‘ I believe that conscription is the only and the proper policy to pursue.” The Caucus said “No.” Mr. Hughes, we are told, was never driven by any man, but after some private consultations ‘ with a few Ministers and some members of the party, he came to the Caucus next day with a compromise proposal for a referendum.
– We all agreed at the party meeting to the referendum.
– A majority did. This is the man who was never driven by any one, and who was never known to be content to do anything he did not want to do. To impose conscription was the one thing which, more than any other, he desired to do, but when he could not induce the Caucus to agree to conscription he submitted the compromise proposal for the referendum, which has caused all the trouble and strife throughout the country.
-And the men who in the Caucus room supported him came down here, and when they learned what the crowd outside were saying, went back on him.
– The less the honorable gentleman says about that the better. ,
– Some who said that they would not leave the room with him afterwards did so.
– Some Ministers who are with the Prime Minister now were strongly against conscription at first, but agreed to the referendum, and subsequently became whole-hearted con.scriptionists. Whatever may have been the inducements held out to Mr. Hughes in London, and whatever truth there may be in “the rumours as to the arrangement made for a quid pro quo, it is quite certain, as far as it is possible to judge without knowledge of the actual facts, that ‘the Ministers who changed their minds on the conscription question also received some promises in the .shape of an extra term of office or something of that kind. The Prime Minister, all credit to him, stuck to. those who stood by him, gave them office, and is keeping them in office.
The fact that they who were previously anti-conscriptionists became conscriptionists proves that he was able to attract them by some particular bait, whatever it was, whether it was an extra term of office or something else.
– The honorable member should not forget that the constituencies re-elected every one of thosemen at the last election. Not one is missing from these benches to-day.
– Not the same constituencies. One man did not go back to West Sydney.
– My time is nearly up. Here they are now. and it is not a little interesting to consider some of the statements which the Prime Minister has made concerning the gentlemen who are now associated with him.
– The honorable member should not take up more than his time.
– I would remind the right honorable member for Swan (Sir John Forrest) of what the Prime Minister said about him -
It were idle to attempt to say one word of the right honorable member for Swan, save that in him we have the piteous spectacle of a man grown old in the service of the country who, in his insatiable lust for office, has made one more ignoble twist. I shall not say that he has sacrificed any principle. It were as well to say that as to accuse a corpse of having sacrificed its life. But I do say that he has sacrificed what little dignity yet belonged to him.
I wonder what he would say of the right honorable member for Swan if he were now on this side instead of where he is.
SirJ ohn Forrest. - When did he say that?
– I was interested tocome across a little reminiscence of the 1914 election. I find that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Joseph Cook), who was then Prime Minister, said at Sandringham -
I daresay we could keep on as we did last session, but there is no honour, no usefulness in a position such as that. I have made up my mind that I cannot stay in the responsible position I hold to-day unless the people give me an accession of strength. I hope that we, as Liberals, will never resort to the tricks and subterfuges that are practised by the other side in order to stay in , power and enjoy the emoluments of office. Liberalism means constitutional rule. I will not stay in power to be made a football of by anybody or by any party.
– And he did not.
– What is he doing now ? Does every change of circumstances warrant change of opinion? The honorable member for Parramatta has been honest enough to say, “ I have changed my opinions over and over again, and am prepared to change them as often as may be necessary.”
– He went out before his electorate.
– Why does he not do so now?
– What is the use of a challenge like that, seeing that his constituency gave a big majority vote for conscription ?
– Ever since the Government proposed conscription, we have had bitterness and strife, but after having poured out the greatest abuse and reviling on his opponents, the Prime Minister says, “Let bygones be bygones.”
– The honorable member has done the same to-night. Why, then, should he complain of the Prime Minister?
– I wish merely to say that if the Prime Minister and the members of his party wish to let bygones be bygones, and to re-unite Australians so that we may get back as nearly as possible to the splendid position which this country occupied in the early days of the war, when she was making such a noble effort, that can be done only by ceasing to talk of conscription, and by an honest attempt to give the people here, and the soldiers abroad, a better deal than they have had lately. Abusive epithets must cease, and the disgraceful statements concerning the character of those who opposed conscription must cease. In this connexion, I commend to honorable members these remarks of His Excellency the Governor of Victoria -
It would be well if all the people in this country tried to give credit for good intentions to those from whom they disagreed. Let all attempt to recognise in the many political opinions which existed here and in Great Britain that all had the good of the country at heart. All the people of all views might be mistaken, but all at least believed in the future destiny and glory of the British race.
.- The question that dominates this discussion is: Have the pledges of the Ministry been kept? I have not yet heard any member distinctly assert that they have been kept. The Governor-General accepted the resignation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) about 10 o’clock in the morning, and commissioned him, later in the day, to form- another Ministry, whereupon the right honorable gentleman selected the very colleagues who had resigned with him. “What occurred reminded me of the words of a comic song. It might be said of the Ministry that -
They marched right into Government House
And marched right out again.
To have been four times Prime Minister, and to have been at the head of three consecutive Administrations without an interregnum between any one of them, is unique in parliamentary history. No such thing has occurred in the Homeland during centimes of parliamentary government.
– .Then the present Prime Minister has put up a record.
– It is a record stinking with infamy. The pledges of the Prime Minister are known to have been broken, and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) would not dare to tell a meeting of his constituents that these pledges have been kept. When Mr. Hughes succeeded Mr. Fisher, he was at the head of the United Labour party, which, as the result of his own actions, he was forced to leave, taking with him only nine Ministers, including the paid Whip of the party, and three supporters. The Governor-General then commissioned him to form a new Ministry, although he had a following of only three. Surely that must have been a precedent on this occasion, though no precedent could be found in the history of the land from which His Excellency came.
After the pull-baker-pull-devil period, when Mr. Cook wanted to have six followers and Mr. Hughes wanted six, the result being that Mr. Hughes got five and the Prime Ministership and Mr. Cook got six, there was a coalition of parties such as had never been seen in parliamentary history before.
This beloved land of ours has been insulted by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), who said that it bad been dishonoured and disgraced. Why does not the honorable member go to his native land and try to get those there to agree to conscription ? Perhaps with his wonderful oratory and his equity bar manner of speaking, as with a lump of pudding in his mouth, he might be able to convert them. It illbecame him to cast slurs and insults on this Australia of ours, seeing that he is not man enough to go to England. I do not know of any occasion on which he has gone upon the platform to assist the voluntary recruiting movement, nor do I know that he has offered his services for the war. I know that one of his best supporters at Mornington, Mr. Lindley, was willing, with another who had thrown out a challenge, to clean his car should he be man enough to go. I have not heard that he lent his money to Australia without interest when she called on her children in her hour of need. Yet we are to have the country ruled by the War Precautions Act, and to be told that the Ministry has kept its pledges. I wish that the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) might be taken, up, and that members might go before their constituents. I should be very willing to resign my seat to do so.
I have been accused in a church of which, I understand, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom) is a pillar and support, of never having endeavoured to obtain recruits. Even throughout the conscription campaign, if young men in the flush of youth, and moved by the impulse of their rich,’ red blood, voluntarily offered themselves for service abroad, I was ready to take their names. I have appeared on the recruiting platform, and this House honoured me by accepting my suggestion that moving pictures should be used to stimulate recruiting. Yet in the pulpit of the House of God, at St. Paul’s, Archdeacon Hindley lied about me - because, I presume, he had read the Argus newspaper. When I complained to the Archbishop and asked for justice, I was told that the only church court before which a clergyman could be cited to appear was a heresy court, and that ,the Archbishop did not think that Archdeacon Hindley had committed heresy. I did not accuse him of heresy. But if a clergyman were found knocking about the streets of Melbourne drunk and disorderly, or if he were accused - as the Rev. James Ronald was falsely accused - of telling a filthy yarn, someone should be able to exercise authority over him. The Archbishop did not wish to exercise authority over the Archdeacon.
I ask the honorable member -for Darling Downs, who is, I believe, a religious man, to look into this question and see if this lying can be prevented.
How could I do otherwise than hope that the power of one who would utter the vile and terrible words recorded in Munsey’s Magazine for October last would be utterly destroyed 1 Speaking to his soldiers that blood-thirsty scoundrel who sits on the Hohenzollern throne said -
You have sworn loyalty to me; this means, children of my God, that you are now my soldiers, that you have given yourselves up to nic, body and soul; there is for you but one enemy, that is my enemy. In view of the present socialistic agitation it may come to pass that I shall command you to shoot down your own relatives, your brothers, yes, your parent? - which God forbid - but even then you must follow my commands without a murmur.
How could any one, knowing how I love Australia and hate and loathe Prussianism and Prussian militarism - I was taught by a rebel who left Prussia in 1848, one who would not permit any Kaiser to rule if he had the power to prevent it - ask me to sign an address of welcome to such a beast?
We blame the German Emperor for having torn up a scrap of paper, but he tore it up in order to get at his enemies, whereas the little Kaiser of Australia for the time being has torn up his pledge, not one given to his enemies, but one which was given not to his own countrymen, but to Australians; and every Australian has the right to demand that the pledge shall be kept. If politicians are to be known as pledge-breakers I am sorry for the future. Here let me quote from Pa.n-Britannic Imperialism, by Walter Eves Wisner -
The destiny of Canada for many years was in the hands of a French Roman Catholic Prime Minister, and that of South Africa in the hands of a Dutch general, who, but recently, had fought against the’ British with all the might of shot and shell. Both will go down in history as among the greatest of their day; both have upheld and administered British institutions, supremely honest in purpose and honorable in intention; both have enhanced the glory of the country giving them power. Why, then, should an Irishman fail? Nobody has the right to condemn a man until he has received a trust and failed in it; the Irishman has not yet been given the chance to fail or make good, and British fair play demands that every man shall have a turn. . . The trust reposed in a Dutch South African did not prevent Dutch wrong mindedness from finding expression, and from being subdued by
Dutch right-mindedness, to which is added the Dutch gift to the Empire of German South and East Africa. So, too, will Irish rightmindedness prevail if given a chance.
There he refers to the loyalty of the Boers. It was one of the brightest pages in English history when the. Mother Country, having the Boers helpless, gave them their freedom. In return the Boers have given England German South and German East Africa. Quoting again from the same publication -
Darc we, the ancestors of Britannic posterity, so ^besmirch the valour of our re-united living and our Imperial dead by handing down as a record of Empire that we were unable to be patient with each other, to trust each other, and to consent with each other to right the wrongs of Imperial chaos, whilst’ yet we took our individual and our Imperial lives in our hands to right the wrongs of Belgium, ofServia, and of Montenegro? Men of that Britannic Empire which is not! You can do it in five years; you can delay it for fifty years; you can make it never.
But it will come. Why cannot we get the whole-hearted support of the great Irish race, not only in America, but even in Australia? Oft times they have volunteered to fight in the wars of the United Kingdom, and I hope to see them fighting again for the great Allied nations of the northern seas. I hope none of them will be swayed by lies coming from those who may desire German success. But why has not the promise and pledge made to the Irish by the British Parliament been kept? If it had been kept it would have released 35,000 Irish constabulary and 53,000 other men, and there would have been no need of the Dry for the services of the few million in Australia. I may, remembering the words of General Smuts, say : Let us hope that a civilization will rise from the carnage of blood and murder men call war that will destroy the power of despots, whether kings, kaisers, or czars, to make human beings become mad with the curse of the murder and rapine of war; and I hope that civilization will be willing and able to pay as much to save infant life, to educate the young, to keep old age from want, and to eliminate poverty as it now spends upon war to destroy man at his most useful period of life. Workers die in their thousands where the aristocrats perhaps die in their tens. I am blamed because I would, ask for the lives of the Kaiser and of all the kinglets and princes of Germany who caused this war, but when Joshua invaded the
Holy Land he had ten kings put to the sword.
We are told that we are nol making any suggestions. I make one suggestion here in the direction of economy. We have two sets of income tax officers, State and Federal, -and two sets of land tax offices, State and Federal. Why cannot we adopt the suggestion of the Conference of Premiers which resolved on the 12th December, 1916 -
That, in the opinion of this Conference, the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the several States shall direct their leading taxation officers to meet at an early dato and prepare a uniform scheme for -
Income tax (rates excepted). (l>) Land tax (rates excepted).
Probate duties (rates excepted) .
That - the Conference reaffirms the desirability of uniform valuation for Commonwealth and State purposes being adopted as early as practicable, .and that the necessary legislative and administrative steps in that direction be taken by the States.
That conference affirmed, amongst other things -
That the system of computation of income tax, as embodied in the Commonwealth Income Tax Act, is too complicated for the ordinary taxpayer, and it is desirable that a “ simple progressive rate be adopted.”
These recommendations, if adopted, would save a good deal of expense and trouble to every citizen who has to submit an income tax or land tax return. Anybody who has had experience with the readyreckoner that has been issued showing the complicated way in which the Commonwealth land and income taxes are made up, will agree with the recommendation regarding the computation of income tax, and I sincerely hope that it will be adopted.
I strongly advocate a shipbuilding policy. It is an infamy that, from the commencement of the war to the present moment, we have not built as many ships to carry away the food that is rotting and mice-infested throughout the country as little Tasmania used to build in’ the fifties. Have Australians lost their intelligence? I accuse the present Government and preceding Governments of having been lax in regard to shipbuilding. I desire to issue a warning in regard to the steamer John Murray, which was recently renovated. That vessel, formerly the Loch Ryan, is one of the oldest of the Loch liners. The Loch Lomond, a ship much younger than the John Murray,
Dr. Maloney. was used as a collier, and was lost between Newcastle and Wellington, with considerable sacrifice of life. By my voice and pen I warned the Government against two ships, the Rio and Volador and both were wrecked, although, fortunately, without loss of life. I am afraid that if the John Murray encounters bad weather or heavy seas she may hot reach California. The vessel should never have left Hobson’s Bay.. While it was a training ship in charge of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), it did splendid work for the boys of Melbourne, and I am sorry it has been taken from that service.
Instead of allowing our wheat to rot and be destroyed by mice, we should take steps to grist it into flour, and the offal could be used in stock raising, as suggested by Mr. Hagelthorn. Two thousand lbs. of - flour is the equivalent of 3,000 lbs. of wheat, and that means that two ships laden with flour would equal in foodstuffs value three ships laden with wheat. In that way we should effect an economy of 33J per cent, in our shipping. A vessel can make two and a half voyages from Sydney to San Francisco in the same time as is occupied on the voyage from Australia to Plymouth or London. ‘ If there were a saving of only 50 per cent., in time we could do with one ship the same work as is done by two ships travelling on the old route from Australia to London. Moreover, the journey across the Pacific is perfectly safe, but there is danger from submarines and mines as soon as a vessel passes the Cape of Good Hope or enters the Red Sea. By following the Sydney-San Francisco route, the cargoes of foodstuffs would be safe across the Pacific and across the United States, a further distance of 3,500 miles, and, by a concentration of their defensive boats, the Allies could efficiently safeguard the journey from the eastern coast of America to Europe. One ship, making the average voyage, could then take as much produce in the same time as six ships making the longer voyage from Melbourne to London. With the precautions that have to be taken, the voyage to England occupies now about eight to ten weeks. The average voyage across the Atlantic occupies only seven to eight days, so that a ship could travel that route seven times as against one voyage from Melbourne to England by the longer route. Our shipping, if regulated in that way, would render great assistance to the Allies.
In 1912 I made a suggestion that a system of patriotic finance should be instituted, commencing with the conversion of the State debts. I estimated, and my figures were checked by keen accountants, that at least £20, 000,000 coul’d be saved in this way, and I suggested that Australia should make a gift of that sum to the Homeland. I prophesied that the money spinners in the United Kingdom) almost the greatest financial kings of the universe,- would immediately say that the stock issued by the Commonwealth would be a far greater security than the stock issued by a State. We should be carrying out the old idea of Euclid that the whole is always greater than a part. Moreover, they would say that that money should be spent in the building of warships for the defence of the British’ flag and the British race, to protect the trade routes of the Empire, and thus insure that Britain would be able to import her food requirements. As long as Britain can feed her people,- he can stand four-square against all the world, but if anything should Interfere with her food supplies, Britain may go down. I proposed that scheme as one way in which we could show our loyalty and love of the Motherland. At that time both the *Age and the Argus were warning us of Germany’s ambitions. The publication of my views resulted in letters of commendation being sent to me from members of the House of Lords, the House- of Commons, the Admiral of the Australian station, and many other distinguished persons.
I have here a quotation from a statement made by Mr. Bonar Law, then Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, in criticism of admissions that had been made by Mr. Churchill. He said - o
Ten years ago we not only had the command of the sea, but we had “the command of every sca. What is the position now? We have the command of no sea in the world except the North Sea at this moment. Honorable members will share the joy I feel in the knowledge that Britain’s long grey coursers o’f the sea are protecting, not only Australia, but the whole of the liberties of the world. Just as Rome, when the heart of Italy was attacked, had to call in her far-flung legions to protect it, so Britain has had to recall her Fleets from, not only the eastern seas, but our seas, to do duty in the North Sea, the most terrible in the world. There to-day Britain, I am glad to say, is stronger and greater than ever she was in the possession of those terrible engines of destruction with which to protect the world’s liberties. In speaking in this House on 28th August, 1912, I said - and it is as true to-day as it was then - that -
Tha seat of tile British Empire is in Europe. The heart of the race is in tlie capital of the English world. If that be injured or destroyed, then all our hopes and ideals, the greatest the. world has seen, must sink into the gloom of oblivion, and the world be the poorer, that our civilization, with all its wider life and greater opportunities, was strangled ere it had a chance.
I glory too much, in my Australia to share the view of the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) that it occupies a disgraceful and pitiable position because of the people’s honest and honorable vote against conscription. The honorable member, because of that vote, declares in his autocratic and oligarchical way that it is “ disgraced and dishonoured.” One wonders why he does not go to the home of his birth, and induce it to accept conscription. His wonderful eloquence, perhaps, might have effect there. He has been very eloquent when speaking at public meetings held in town halls to which admission could be obtained only by ticket. We could not hire a town hall, but when the honorable member applied for such a building it was at once placed at his disposal. If he loves the land from which he came, let him go back to it and try to persuade its people to adopt conscription. As the honorable member is present, I shall repeat the statement I made in his absence, that I do not know of his having ever spoken from any voluntary enlisting platform, nor do ,1 know that he has offered his services to his country, or offered this country the use of his money free of interest. We have raised by way of war loans over £100,000,000, but, so far as I know, a sum of only £1,120 has been loaned to the Commonwealth free of interest.
We know that England needs food. There rabbits are selling at 5s., whereas we have here millions of rabbits, which are spoken of as “ vermin,” and are being poisoned. Nemesis always follows the destruction of a good and healthy food. I do not know that, weight for weight, a rabbit is not as valuable as a sheep to-day if consideration be taken of the value of its fur and its food qualities. Nemesis always follows when nature is interfered with, and I think the blow-fly has come as a curse to the pastoralists because of the destruction of our feathered tribes as the result of their eating poisoned rabbits. In the Herald of 17th March last Mr. Bonar Law was reported to have said that “ food was more necessary than men,” and that “the production of food was of even more importance than sending additional men to the Front. “ In the Argus of 17th December last Mr. Lloyd George was reported as having said -
Victory is now a. question of tonnage, and tonnage is victory. Nothing else can defeat us now but a shortage of tonnage.
What does that mean? It means that whereas the United States last year have possibly put upon the ocean close on 750,000 tons of shipping, those vile serpents of the sea, the submarines, have sunk upwards of 5,000,000 tonnage. Tonnage is wanted to carry food. We allow the mice to eat food supplies here. We allow foodstuffs to be wasted and destroyed, and we are neglecting to push on with the work of ship-building as we ought to do.
I come now to the question of Protection. I am a whole-hearted Protectionist. I hope to see the adoption of such a policy of Protection as will enable Australia to be entirely self-contained. I should like to see a preference granted to the products of the Homeland in recognition of what the Homeland has done for us. To the four nations, like a four-leaved shamrock, in the northern seas, let us by all means give a 10 per cent, or 20 per cent, preference over the noble Allies who, equally with ourselves, are fighting in the deluge of blood and carnage called “war.” *” Let us give our Allies a preference, if you will, over the neutral countries, and give those neutral countries an absolute prohibition, if you will, against all enemy countries. The Allies represent something like 1,400,000,000 people as against 134,000,000. Germany and Austria are entrenched as it were against us like those beleaguered stone-walled cities of the past that used to stand out for five, seven, or ten years against the foe. The only difference is that in modern warfare they dig themselves in and have vast areas of land for the cultivation of foodstuffs. . The time will come - and I hope it will come before Easter brings happiness to children if not to adults - when peace will be with us.
I want this beloved Australia of ours bo be’ independent and self-supporting. We should build up amongst our people a pride and glory in Australian products. I hope we shall never return to the days of my youth when anything described as “ Colonial “ was considered to be inferior. Then again we should certainly go in for the proper fixing of prices. I have already explained to Senator Russell that it is an easy matter to put on a small sheet of paper the price ,at which meat, sugar, flour, and other foodstuffs may be purchased over the counter.If such a notice were put up in every post-office, all the people in the immediate vicinity would know exactly what they had to pay. More important still is the necessity for the publication of the name of some Government officer to whom the citizen could write- in the case of any overcharge being made, the duty of prosecuting the offending tradesman being laid upon that officer. .When I made the suggestion, I was told that it would be taken into consideration ; . but what really happened was the issue of a Gazette so splendidly printed as to justify a compliment to the printer. In that Gazette we have column after column showing the price of bread. What was the cost of the issue of that Gazette I do not know, but it was not printed at the Government Printing Office, but by an outside printer. I do not blame the printing firm for undertaking the work, nor do I desire to mention any name; I merely desire, as I have intimated, to compliment the printer on the splendid work he turned out. It seems to me, however, somewhat ridiculous to issue such a Gazette when a simple notice such’ as I have suggested could be exhibited in every post-office.
– It is pretty rich that Critchley Parker should be a second Government Printer!
– I have said that I do not desire to mention any name.
– The name ought to be mentioned. This is a reward for services rendered !
– I have been informed that bags used for wheat were sold eleven separate times in the city, each sale carrying a profit. I question whether there is any member in the House who could give the real prices of goods, seeing that the prices vary with the place.
– I recommended that shopkeepers should be compelled to exhibit the list of prices.
– I am sure that every father and mother in Australia would wish that that suggestion had been acted upon. Lord Rhondda, in England, has said that war famines are not created te- enable dealers in food to engage in profiteering, and President Wilson has said that neither the American nor any other Government should be bled by extortionists. In America, one of the President’s officers, Mr. Danielswas given power to take over the steel plate industry ; and this has resulted in the saving of about £20,000,000 in three months. Co-operative societies are trying to do a little, but it i9 little they can do in this connexion. A most ridiculous fact in Australia is that a horse, worth about £20, cost the Government between £200 and £300; and, further, there was an “ honorary “ organizer for one of the charities at a salary of £500 a year. In addition, we have had frauds on the Government connected with phantom regiments, while widows and children have had to wait long for the money necessary for their support. Even the honorable member for Flinders, with all his legal knowledge, found it a very difficult task to whitewash the crowd opposite; in fact, it was not a whitewash, but a zebra effect - a sort of camouflage.
As to the future, why should we not have another vote of the people in order to elect ten men to carry on the war independently of the members of the Government, in whom I have no confidence. In my opinion, there were two honest men in the Government, who would not have broken their pledge had it not b_een for their loyalty to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet; but there is a greater loyalty, and that is loyalty to Australia and its people. The present Governmenthave crept into power under the stolen name of the “Win-the-war party,” and the Director of Recruiting was man enough to say that if he had the power h’e would punish them for doing so. Is there any one in Parliament, or outside, who does not desire to win the war ? If there is such a man, then I have a quarrel with him.
The Prime Minister has said that Australia cries for help in the shape of conscription of human life; but we do not hear anything about a vote of the people in regard to conscription of wealth, for which I think there would be even a bigger majority than in the case of the last referendum. Our mother, Australia, cried on all her people for help, and her sons and daughters responded -to the extent of £101,000,000 at 4$ per cent. The mother generously paid the 4^ per cent. How much of the money was lent free of interest? Eleven hundred and twenty pounds. Actually, out of every £100 invested in our war loans to-day, only id. and a minute fraction of id. is lent free of interest. In these circumstances, where are the noble patriots?
– Did not the honorable member’s party issue a manifesto in which it was stated that they would not tax wealth ?
– I would not belong to. a party that did such a thing. I would be prepared to sign them up as lunatics.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) made the statement.
– What is the statement of Sir John Grice, the chairman of directors of the National Bank of Australasia? Did he use the circumstance to which I have alluded as a peg upon which Labour men might hang their arguments? No. He dreads the aftermath of this war, when the finances of the world will have to be treated very differently from the way in which they have ever yet been treated.
– What was the date of the articles relating to the statement made by Sir John Grice?
– That in the Age was published on the 8th November last year, and the article in the Bulletin was printed on the 22nd November. The latter is the fuller article of the two. Sir John Grice - and I take it that no honorable member opposite will dispute his standing as a financial authority - said that if a man is receiving an income of £5,500 from our war loans, h.6 will be getting more than 6 per cent, on “his money, whereas if he derives an income of £30,000 from this source he will be getting nearly 7 per cent. Now, if the same individual obtained an equal income from land he would be called upon to na,V State and Federal income tax, State and Federal land tax, and a super-tax. But under existing conditions, owing to the action of the Ministry of the day, so long as his money is invested in our war loans, he is exempted from this taxation. I hold that this condition of affairs must be altered. There is an old proverb in China that one must endeavour to save his face, just as the honorable member for Flinders has endeavoured to-day to save his fa,ce. notwithstanding that the Ministry have broken their pledge. The alteration might be effected when the war has ended by giving notice that all sums in excess of £1,000 or £5,000 invested by individuals who are not willing that their income from .our war loans should be taxed, should be returned to them on a certain date.
I come now to the question of war profits. I do not think any Liberal Premier of Victoria will ever again issue a list such as that which I hold in my hand - a list comprising the names of 265 individuals, firms, or companies who pay income tax. Some of these individuals, firms, or companies have made in profits during war time more than £100,000 a year in excess of the profits made by them in peace time. One firm made in 1916 more than £100,000 in excess of the profits which it made iu 1914. These firms in 1915 made £412,888 in excess of the profits of the previous year, whilst in 1916 they made a profit of £1,521,000. I have always maintained that after allowing business men a profit, say, of 10 per cent, or their average profit for the three pre-war years, the balance should revert to the State. That would prevent the unjust raising of the prices of foodstuffs, or the accumulation of war profits which takes place in war time. Anybody who makes undue profits during war time is an enemy of Australia just as much as are our foes at the Front.
I recognise that there are many persons in the community who honestly desire to encourage voluntary recruiting. In such circumstances what’ oan be done? Quite recently,, under one roof in the Sydney Town Hall, men were enlisted a3 strike breakers at the rate of los. per day. They were not called upon to risk their lives. Yet the soldiers leaving our shores to fight for these strike breakers receive only 5s. per day, with ls. per day deferred pay. Seeing that the remuneration of the strike breakers was fixed by the capitalists themselves at 15s. per day, surely the nav of our soldiers should be increased to that amount. How can we expect the fathers of families who are in receipt of 14s., 15s., and 16s. per day to go to the Front for 5s. per day? Four shillings of this last-named sum is allotted to the wives who are left behind, and an additional 44d. is paid on account of each child under sixteen years of age. What a paltry pittance. I wish to God the GovernorGeneral and the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) had to feed their children on 4£d. per day. But the common soldiers’ children receive that amount. Then the families get a little assistance from the patrioticsocieties, and if they only chance to know a few of the members of those organizations things go along smoothly enough. I hope that the Democracy of Australia will some day declare that the private shall receive the same pay as the officer. Give the Commander-in-Chief £100 a year more if you like, but pay him only the same pension. What are the pension’s given to our privates ? I desire to impress upon honorable members that in , the Defence Department we pay a hundred men salaries- in excess of that received by the Commander-in-Chief of the Swiss Army in war time, although he has under him 300,000 men. We also pay fifteen men more than Count von ‘ Moltke received when he led the victorious Prussians, 1,500,000 strong, into France and conquered it. I have here one of these laws - for anything that will cause me to be fined or imprisoned for breaking it is a law, whether it is called a regulation or anything else - providing that a major-general shall receive £1,200 a year. Above the major-general is a lieutenant-general who, I suppose, would receive £200 more, or about £28 per week. Above him is a general, who, I suppose, would receive about £30 per week. However, to speak from the book, I note that a’ majorgeneral gets £24 per week and also a field allowance of 15s. per day, for seven days in a week, making £29 5s. in all. I ask, as I asked the people outside, could not his wife save a good deal of money from that £24 per week? Is she not much better able to save than the -wife of John Brown on 5s. per day? Why should there be such a difference? Have they not each one soul and one body ? We shall never have a democratic Army until all ranks are clothed, fed, and paid the same, giving the commanderinchief a little more. I hope the curse of military government will be ended with this war. All old-age pensioners, no matter what they have been in previous years, can claim only the same amount. The same applies to invalid pensioners, and women in their hour of trial, when they claim the maternity allowance for the. God-given gift of motherhood, can receive only the same allowance. If you want to crush down the military system, let the power of the people always be dominant. Whether I have been on this or- the other side of the House, I have always asked if the civil power was dominant over the military power. I asked that when Mr. Fisher was /in control, and I was always told’ that it was. If we were not certain, we moved amendments to make it so. All those pledges have been broken, not by Mr. Fisher, but by his successor.
Can any honorable member quote me a single instance in Melbourne where the widow of a man who has made the supreme sacrifice of his life at the Front has been given a house free of rent 1 In one case only was an amount sufficient for the purpose given, and that was raised by the kindness of neighbours. But in Sydney, according to the Melbourne Herald of 29th July last, there were 300 widows in their own little fourroomed brick cottages, some of them at Daceyville, at the nominal charge of ls. per year as long as they lived or remained widows. Why is that not done in “Victoria or the other States? The same article shows that in cases where there are no houses for them their rents are paid for them. There are halfadozen places in New South Wales where the widows of soldiers are being looked after. What has been done in Victoria? The Victorian Government dismissed 200 returned soldiers from the Railway Department. Will that help recruiting? Will that encourage all the men who meet and talk to them to go to the ‘ Front ? Some time ago I asked the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr.- Groom) -
In view of the present alleged unsatisfactory position of returned soldiers, will the Prime Minister arrange so that they shall receive pay until they are permanently settled on the land or provided for. in some other occupation ?
The answer was -
The question as to action to be taken in the case of returned soldiers after discharge is now under the consideration of the Government, and is being dealt with in connexion with the general question of repatriation which will shortly be submitted for the consideration of Parliament.
That was a long time ago, but nothing has been done.
Then there were promises made by big companies to reinstate men in their positions on return. I believe the Commonwealth Bank has been guilty of breaking’ promises of that kind. I asked that the names of the firms who had broken their word to soldiers should be displayed at the post-offices for the people to read. I am sure that 99 out of every 100 Australians, if they read that a firm had not kept its promise to a soldier when he returned, would take their custom elsewhere. My suggestion would have been a good way to punish firms of that kind, but perhaps it was too drastic for the Prime Minister to adopt - at any rate, he could not see his way clear to do it.
Now, as to the way some men have been treated. According to a petition presented to this House, twenty-four or twenty-five men, all of whom had been to the Front, were punished severely.. One was charged with joining in a meeting, and with disobedience of an order. The sentence was eighteen months’ hard labour; but that is very mild compared with some of the others which follow. Another private, charged with” being absent without leave, and with insubordinate language to a noncommissioned officer, was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude. Another, charged with disobeying an order, bad language, and escaping from custody, was given five years’ penal servitude. And so the merry list goes on - merry as hell! Another concrete example : According to an article reprinted in v the Sydney Morning Herald of 22nd ‘March, 1917, certain men were sent into the desert in Egypt with three days’ supply of water to build a railway. They finished the water in a day and a half, and when they could not get water for the balance of the three days, they ceased the work. They were court-martialled , and sentenced to terms ranging from two or five years. After being landed in Long Bay gaol, Sydney, they were removed to the Goulburn gaol shackled by a blacksmith. That is a case of leg-irons with a vengeance.
– That is a total misstatement of the facts of that case. “Dr. MALONEY.- The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) tried to prove that that was a wrong statement; but his speech, after all, was only an acknowledgment of the facts. No one dare deny that those men were shackled, although some may say that they deserved to be.
The Prime Minister stated that he had actually seen a soldier wearing a “Yes” button struck. If that was so, I am very sorry for it; but let me repeat what I heard with my own ears said . by a man wearing an officer’s uniform. When the newspaper was handed on board the ship with the announcement that the “ Noes “ had a majority, this officer actually said, “I wish I had every man and woman who voted “ No “ in front of my Gatling guns, and I would shoot every one of them.” That officer went oyer at his own expense to hound down Colonel Crouch because he was fighting with the privates on the “ No “ side. He went over to Tasmania to interrupt a meeting. I did not know him from a wow then. He was dressed in private clothes, and he interrupted me when I was speaking. I said, “If you do not sit down and wait for question time, I will have you turned out.” He was turned out under Regulation 306, issued last year. What do honorable members . think of this officer having a loaded waddy hidden in his coat? He was so proud of it on the ship next day that he was waving it about. What about the officers who, in uniform, and against the law - and they should understand the law - attended a meeting to destroy any chance of Colonel Crouch speaking? Thank the Lord the officer T have referred to was not an Australian, but, like the honorable member for Flinders, came from another place.
The only period in history that I can compare our times with is that of England under Walpole, and I would like to remind the honorable member for Flinders that the vote of the people on this referendum clearly indicates that the wisdom of the electors is greater than that of any chance Ministry owing its position to a chance majority. The people who pay have the right to say how the money shall be spent, and I shall never be content until they have the initiative and recall, not by permission of this Parliament, but as their right under “the Constitution. I shall never be content until they have the right by .a petition signed by thirty out of every 100 electors to declare any seat vacant. When they have that privilege we shall not have the spectacle of Ministry and members- breaking their sacred pledges made to the people. I believe that if the honorable member for Flinders has his way we would have conscription to-morrow, and I remember how he robbed every man in the State Public Service of a portion of his citizenship. But I also remember how that proposal was thrown out unanimously by both Houses.
– None of his legislation remains. N
– No, not even his infamous reduction of the old-age pensions from £238,000 to £150,000, for the Commonwealth Government to-day is paying in Victoria over £600,000 in pensions, whereas he thought £150,000 was enough.
We have been told that France has beenbled white, but on the other hand I learned from perhaps the best informed American that has ever come to Australia that the United States has over 1,000,000 men in England and France. In the latter country, I understand, the American recruits now total 960,000. It will be remembered that when General Joffre proceeded to America as a commission, after the declaration of war, he advised the United States Government to send their recruits to France at once in order that they might be trained in the theatre of war. In addition to this information I made inquiries of a high official in the Defence Department, and was told that America now had about 1,000,000 men in training in France, equal to fifty divisions.
– They are sending 38,000 a week over to France.
– In Contemporary History, an American publication, it was sta ted six months ago that France at that time had under arms 1,000,000 men more than at any other period of the war, that she had a greater number of guns, and altogether was in a far better position to carry on the fight. . Since then Great. Britain has relieved her of about 127 kilometres - considerably more than 100 miles - of front. Notwithstanding this relief we are now told that France has been bled white.
It might interest members to recall the names of some of those who have risen high in the ranks of Labour, where they were born, and what became of them. Mr. Watson led us and left us. He was not an Australian, but was born in Valparaiso, and it is a pity he did not stay there. Mr. Fisher, who, I believe, is as true as he was when he led us, has not left us. He was born in Scotland. Good luck to him and the country he came from. Mr. Hughes comes from “Wales for ever, best;” Tom Glassey from England; Kidston from Scotland; Holman from England, and McGowan was born at sea.
– How do you account for all your leaders leaving you?
– One writer, speaking of our party for the time being, summed up the position very quaintly in these words - “ It is a. great party smashed for a brief time by a petty little tyrant, who had but one idea - the glorification of his own personality.”
But what is behind it all, so far as Mr. Hughes is concerned? Is there a dangling ribbon, a high title, and a big salary? Is it the chairmanship of a commission representing all the Oveaseas Dominions? If it is, then I venture to prophesy that meetings will be held throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and resolutions will be carried, informing the people of the, Mother Country that we are glad to get fid of him, but cannot compliment them on taking him, especially if he treats them as he treatsUS. Let there be no mistake about this pledge breaking. Every member of this House, who votes against this censure motion, and in support of the Government in the farce of resigning and going back to office within ten hours, will be a party to the policy of breaking faith with the Australian public. In a recent issue of the Graphic there appears a splendid cartoon, showing William Morris Hughes and Mr. Cook’s noses tied together by the word “ conscription,” and containing the following statement under the heading - “ The basis of Representative Government “ -
In no sphere is this virtue (keeping one’s word) more essential than in that of politics; for without it representative government is impossible. . . . Every man elected as a member of a party is expected to fight loyally for its interests, share its fortunes, and obey its decisions.
Touching the fate of turncoats, the writer has this to say -
A member who deserts his party earns the eternal detestation of his former friends and supporters-
Rut why go on? In a book entitled From- Boundary Rider to Prime Minister, by Douglas Sladen, an Australian writer, I find that the Prime Minister said -
It is to me an astounding thing that men who love liberty and devote their lives to the cause of social reform should tolerate the professional soldiery, for a standing army is opposed to the very nature of Democracy. It is a menace to civil liberty, a ready and fearsome instrument in the hands of a despot or an unscrupulous politician to crush liberty and to oppress the people. . . . Conscription produces militarism, produces a caste, it withdraws a man from production.
And so on. Archdeacon Boyce, of Sydney, said -
He protested with all his heart against people urging Mr. Hughes and his Ministry to remain in office after their defeat on conscription. It was a question that rose far above the party, as it stood oat before the Commonwealth as a simple one of truth and honour; indeed, it was a moral and so a religious one, that it became unthinkable among men of honour that there could be any other course but resignation. What kind of a lesson in truth-telling would it be to a million young Australians if the highest in the land broke his publicly-proclaimed word, and to offer to resign and at once agree to continue, would be an unreality and a mere sham. He did not think that the promise applied to the other members of the same party, but it unquestionably did to the Government themselves. In principle the matter was just the same as the cause of the present war. England kept her word to Belgium, and entered into the conflict with all its frightful consequences, while Germany broke her’s. Mr. Roosevelt had said that had England not kept her word she could never have lifted up her head among the nations again, and so in this case, if a definite promise were treated as a scrap of paper, Mr. Hughes and his Ministry would be everlastingly dishonoured and debased.
The honorable member for Flinders has said that Australia has been dishonoured and debased, but if he supports the present Government he will, in the opinion, of Archdeacon Boyce, himself be dishonoured and debased. From the Herald of 11th January, 1918, I find that Mr. Holman has expressed himself as being amazed at what has taken place.
Commenting upon Mr. Hughes’ return to power, he said -
I have long known that Mr. Hughes is a manwhose pledged word is absolutely worthless, but I confess I am amazed and depressed to find that the whole of his colleagues have joined him in this exploit. I can only attribute it, in certain cases, to a sense of mistaken loyalty to a man who has never been loyal to anybody or to anything.
It is said that in the southern States of America there were only three Christian ministers who advocated the abolition bf slavery because it was against the law of God. The rest held it to be in accordance with Scripture and Divine right. I am glad to be able here to put on record the names of ministers of religion who took the right side in connexion with the question of conscription, and held the making of a military caste to be against the Christian religion. . I mention the names of Charles Strong, of the Australian Church, Melbourne; Frederick Sinclaire of the Free Religious Fellowship, Melbourne; H. Hope Hume, Congregational Minister, Victoria; F. Clemens, Baptist Church, Murrumbeena, Victoria;. A. Rivett, Independent, New South Wales ; W. H. Beale, Methodist, New South Wales; B Lynden Webb, Methodist, New South Wales; William Cooper, Australian representative of the Society of Friends; and Arthur J. Prowse, Presbyterian, Tasmania. I would rather be in the company of those men in the next world than in that of the howlers for blood from the platforms of those advocating conscription. Even the possession of a name the same as that of the Prime Minister could not save the Rev. Dr. Hughes, of Rockhampton, Queensland, because he happened to be against conscription, and the leaders of his church got rid of him.
– They hounded him out of his pulpit.
– Just as the ecclesiastics of old did, to Dr. Hughes’ Master.
– They crucified Dr. Hughes’ Master, and Dr. Hughes must thank his Creator that the so-called Christians of this day had not the power possessed by those who dealt with his Master.
There is one Australian soldier who holds a higher honour than was held by Lord Kitchener. I ‘allude to Lieutenant Jacka, who not only won the Victoria Cross, which was net held by Lord
Kitchener, but was entitled to it a second time, and has been granted a bar to it. The other side could not even let this man alone. I have here a sworn declaration by the father of Lieutenant Jacka, dated 27th October, 1916, in which he states -
I have read what appears to be a letter to the Argus to-day from Reg. W;. Turnbull, of Linda Cottage, Wedderburn. I have lived in Wedderburn for about thirty years, and know all the people in and around the town. There is no such person as Reg. W. Turnbull living in Wedderburn. I know each and every Turnbull living in the whole district. The only Turnbull in Wedderburn is Walter Turnbull, a butcher, who is childless. I believe the letter said to have been received by Reg. W. Turnbull to be a fabrication,’ made for the purpose of improperly influencing votes in favour of conscription.
Mr. Jacka made this solemn declaration in such a way as to render himself liable for perjury if what he stated were proved not to be true, and he subsequently addressed public meetings from the 6th December, 1917, to the 12th of that month, in support of the statement he made. This man has other brave sons at the Front. Yet the conscriptionists could not help lying, even about those who had so distinguished themselves.
We may rest assured that the breaking of pledges by this Ministry will not be forgotten, and cannot be explained away. After this Parliament has been to the country, the Ministerial party will not have its present strength, and I am willing to wager, for the benefit of a hospital, that in every instance in which a Ministerialist crawls back, his majority will have been reduced if he has defended the breaking of the promise of the Government. This promise has been broken as vilely as the treaty which guaranteed Belgium’s freedom was broken by the Germans, but without the excuse which the Germans had, which was that what they did was necessary’ in the interests of their country. Are Ministers afraid that, should they go out of office, their Departments may be searched ? I should like” to see copies of all the telegrams that have been sent to the Front. Birdwood is a good General, possibly, but in political matters, and so far as voting is concerned, he is a perfect little “Birdy.” Whenever did he get a vote in England, Ireland, or Scotland as a man? He never had a vote in any of those countries as a man. They do not give men the right to vote there. I doubt if more than 1 per cent. of the single men at the Front who have gone from the Four Kingdoms have the right to vote.No son who lives in his father’s house can vote unless he is a lodger there. Mr. Asquith, when Prime Minister of England, had his name taken off the electoral list because he was living in a house owned by his wife, and had not arranged to be enrolled as a lodger. Yet they dare to interfere in Australian matters.
I firmly believe that there is or was a Sixth Division at the Front. In my opinion, it is lying hypocrisy to deny the fact, and I have said so on the platform. Allowing 20,000 to a division, we have five divisions at the Front, that is, 100,000 men; 15,000 men in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and over 6,000 men on our Australian Fleet- making 121,000 Then I have had a letter from my grand nephew, another letter from another boy whom I have nursed, and a third letter from a boy whom I brought into the world - all of them written from the Front - in which it is said that there is a Sixth Division. Did not an officer own at a public meeting - I have the report here - that there is a Sixth Division. Yet men have been punished with fine or imprisonment for saying so. What is to be done to Ministers who have broken a pledge given to the Australian public? I ask those who have read Lecky’s account of the bribery, and corruption in Walpole’s time to compare it with the state of affairs under the present Government.
The infamous lie has been repeated for bad purposes that France has been “ bled white.” But this is what Andre Tardieu, Trench High Commissioner to the United States of America, wrote to the Secretary of War there in July last : -
Dear Mr. Baker,
I brought to your knowledge in a recent talk the surprise I felt in reading so often in American newspapers some utterly inaccurate information regarding the military conditions prevailing in Europe, and especially in the Trench Army. In connexion with our conversation, I believe it would be of interest to present to you some figures which, better than any comments, would expose to you the reality; these figures will show you France as she is, vigorous and powerful, in spite of suffering without precedent in history.
The strength in men now present in the zone of the armies alone shows the maximum figure reached during the war.This figure, which amounts to a little less than 3,000,000 of men, exceeds by over 1,000,000 the number of men actually in the said zone at the beginning; and one must add to that figure the men in the zone of the interior and in the Colonies. We are certain, with the resources of our metropolitan and colonialdepots, to be able to maintain that number up to its present level for a long time to come.
Our strength in men, by reason of a better command, and better methods of instruction, has shown, since the beginning of the war, constantly decreasing definitive casualties - killed, missing, and those taken prisoner.
The following figures substantiate this: -
For measuring the offensive and defensive quality of the troops, whose numerical strength I have indicated above, I can do nothing better than to quote some more figures. The Western Front has an extension of 739 kilometers: - 27 kilometers are held by the Belgians. 138 kilometers are held by the English. 574 kilometers are held by the French.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Apparently, for new ethics, a new standard of morals, and may be a new brand of conscience, one must come to the Federal Parliament. I am not concerned with what may happen to honorable members opposite. I would view, with a certain amount of satisfaction, their absence in, say, a little over two years’ time, especially the absence of those who have proved traitors to their trust ; but I object to any party or to any set of politicians dragging an institution in the mire, and thus, causing the public to distrust it. Every member of this Parliament must bear the disgrace attaching to this institution by reason of the lack of conscience and morals shown by our honorable friends opposite. I do not say that any one member of the Government party is responsible for what has happened. Every one of them, including the anticonscriptionist from Werriwa (Mr. Lynch)’, is responsible for what happened during the past few months, and must accept that responsibility.
– There are many anti-conscriptionists in the electorate pf the honorable member. The honorable member is one of the National party, bolstered up by lies and trickery,
– I rise to a point of order. I have not told any lies.
-(Hon. J. M. Chanter) . - There is no point of order.
– If the honorable member did not tell lies during the campaign, he is the only man on that side who did not.
– Is the last remark of the honorable member in order ?
– The honorable member’s remark is distinctly out of order.
– I withdraw it. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) must accept responsibility for what has occurred during the past six weeks; he cannot disclaim it while he keeps silence and sits behind the” present Ministry, the so-called new Ministry, which went out one door and came in another immediately, and has not yet offered an apology to the Australian people for so doing. Every honorable member opposite must accept responsibility for the pledges that were given, even the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), and even the only anti-conscriptionist on the Government benches. It was decided, when the referendum .was first mooted, that it would not be made vital to the existence of the Government, but friend Holman, of the same ilk and type as many honorable members opposite, and brother in political treachery to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), journeyed to Melbourne.
– I cannot permit the honorable member to indulge in language of that kind.
– This gentleman journeyed to Melbourne in order to free himself from a pledge, something of the same character as that which has landed honorable members opposite in such a mess. His object was to induce his National colleagues here to make the referendum a vital question,- so that the National party of New South” Wales, which had signed a humiliating document in order to preserve its political existence, might retain it, and he was successful in getting the National party in Melbourne to make this matter a vital question.
– The National party were not consulted in reference to the matter.
– Then let me say that he consulted the Ministry here. . It is useless for the honorable member to attempt to disclaim responsibility while he sits on the Government benches. At any rate, the Ministry, in order to get the support of the National party in New South Wales, which has almost drowned itself by putting a millstone around its neck, gave in to Mr. Holman, and made the referendum a vital question. Many of the pledges that have been made have already been read during this debate, but I wish to repeat them in order to freshen the memories of honorable members opposite.
– We have heard them six times already.
– I do not care whether honorable members have heard them twenty times; they will hear them again. “ I tell you, the Government must have this power; it cannot govern the country, and will not attempt to do so without it.” That was the main pledge. Here is one that has not been quoted up to date. Speaking in the Sydney Town Hall, the Prime Minister said -
The Win-the-war Government will not and cannot attempt to govern this country unless the people give us that power. The defection of this State of New South Wales was the cause of the defeat of the last referendum. Many men in this State went into the booths and voted ‘ No “ because there was no consequence to Parliament, but they will not do that now. They must take the responsibility of their votes. If they want this Government they know what they have to do, but if they are prepared to hand over the reins to the parties who ran the strike, to men who would withdraw Australia from the war, to men who stand for Sinn Feinism and Industrial Workers of the Worldism, they have only to vote “ No “
Then, again, on 25th November, speaking to farmers, he said -
If you by your vote defeat the Government proposals, then you hand over the reins of government to extremists, the Industrial Workers of the World and the Sinn Fein. That is the responsibility that rests upon you farmers. Consider well under which banner you will stand, which Government you will choose, whether you are for Australia or whether you are against her. Consider whose lead you will follow, and vote as your conscience and interests dictate.
Those words were very plain. No sidestepping; no hacking or filling can get away from what they mean. They did not mean going out one door and coming in another. They meant just what they were intended to mean ; and I believe that when he made those pledges, the Prime Minister intended to ..keep them: In a very unhappy speech this afternoon, the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), torn between loyalty to himself and duty to his party, did not make his position clear in his attempt to excuse himself and his party, though, if any man in this Parliament should make his position clear, it is the honorable member, o Speaking at Wagga on the 28th November, he said -
The Government have made a definite and welcome assertion of ‘ the principle of Government responsibility in an issue vital to our national honour and safety. No other course would have been possible. The Government say, in effect, “ You must choose between cur party with conscription and the Official Labour party without conscription.” In that pledge the Government must, not be allowed to stand alone. All members sitting behind the Government, are bound by it in honour, or they cease to be Government supporters. Hence, no Ministry can be formed on the National side of the House which will attempt to carry on government without conscription. It is clear, therefore, that, should the electors from any of the motives that may actuate them, decline the responsibility of sanctioning conscription by a direct vote, one of two things must happen - cither the government of this country must be handed to the Tudor party, or the National party in Parliament must take the full responsibility of its policy, even should that necessitate an appeal to the constituents in the ordinary manner provided by the Constitution.
– The honorable member will admit that the opinion of the honorable member for Flinders does not bind the party ?
– Until to-night I thought he was the only honest and honorable man in the National party. I have no desire to make a personal attack upon the honorable member for Flinders, but I desire to say something of his conduct as a public man, and the awful dissension, bitterness, loss, and victimization that the honorable gentleman has caused during his term in public life. There are many other men in the community of kindred natures, who stand aloof and cold from everything and everybody and go blundering on, caring nothing for the harm which may befall those who stand in their way. [lib]
In 1902, the honorable’ member, who was then Attorney-General in the Victorian Parliament, passed a Coercion Act which brought about such a state of affairs in Victoria that the State has not yet recovered from the effects of what he did. In 1914 he was mainly responsible for the double dissolution of the Federal Parliamen’t over the question of preference to unionists. He had no small hand in the conscription referendum of 1916, and he had a very big hand in the referendum of 1917. Not once has he been on the right track. But within a couple of months he will be urging the National party to enforce conscription without reference to the people at all.
– Does not the honorable member think it is enough to condemn my past faults without predicting my future?
– The honorable member has been very unfortunate in respect of every public matter he has supported, and his career shows clearly that he does not understand what the Austra-Han people need or desire, or what they will tolerate. Every matter of importance that has been advocated by the honorable member for Flinders has been rejected by the people. Until recently the best that people could say of the honorable member was that he was honest in his intentions, but his speech to-day, vague and indefinite as it was, made one wonder whether he has not ceased to be that which both his friends and enemies thought him. I should like to know where the honorable member stands, and whether he intends to support the National party. No matter how much he may claim that he could not during the campaign attack the party of which he was a member, he must accept responsibility for the introduction of government by the Prime Minister and Government Printer and the attempted incarceration of public men.
I believe that a number of people voted and advocated conscription for ulterior and vile motives. It has been alleged that we have in the Labour party and supporting us all “the Sinn Feiners, all the Industrial’ Workers of the World, all the disloyalists, all the pro-Germans, and all the enemies of Australia, Great Britain,” the Allies, and civilization. But in the National party, and amongst those who voted for conscription - including, at least, one honorable member who is not present to-night - are men who desired the introduction of conscription as a means of getting cheap labour. If that is not their desire their actions at least justify that suspicion. During the referendum campaign I travelled the whole of the western part of New South Wales, and I found that every station, with rare exceptions, from Nyngan westward,- employed. Chinamen, and every squatter who employed Chinamen in preference to white men and . returned soldiers was a conscriptionist. At that time, according to the Labour Minister in New South Wales (Mr. Beeby), there were over 300 returned soldiers in that State who wanted work, and Mr. Beeby supplicated those patriotic employers almost on bended knees, “ For God’s sake, give work to these returned soldiers.” But they preferred Chinamen. Are Industrial Workers of the World or disloyalists Worse than such men ? There sits on the Government benches an honorable member who employs Chinamen on his : station. I will not say he employs them in preference to returned soldiers, but the fact remains that he does not employ returned soldiers.
– It is only fair to say that the same man offered work to members of your union, and they declined it.
– I offered to get for him any number of men, up to 100, if he would pay white men’s wages, but he cannot get returned soldiers to work
On a Chinaman’s wage. You cannot expect white men to be content with a pound of rice and a shot crow once a week. If conscription was advocated only in order that black and brown labour might be brought into the western country, and probably into other parts of Victoria and New South Wales, it is no wonder that the people voted against that policy.
– I personally challenge you to deny that the honorable member to whom you refer offered work to other men.
– And I know that when he made the offer there were men in the town of Warren who were willing and competent to take his work provided he would pay a living wage.-
– The honorable member’s statement will be challenged, so he may as well give the facts.
Mr. -BLAKELEY. - My statement cannot be challenged. Any man in the west of New South Wales who will pay proper wages can get men. When patriotic squatocracy employs’ Chinamen on its stations in preference to returned soldiers, is there any wonder that there is bitterness in our midst and suspicion of everything the National party advocates? Honorable members opposite must accept their responsibility for this state of affairs. In the district of Byrock, taking into account the youngest babe and the oldest inhabitant, there are 140 white souls. Surrounding the district are quite a large number of stations owned by patriots and flag-flappers who visit the “ local railway station to cheer and “ Godsave” departing recruits, and who, on the back trip, probably, take five or ten Chinamen with them. At no time can one .travel on that western train without seeing, it may be six, ten, or twenty Chinese, either travelling up the line or returning from & job. That is an everyday occurrence. I believe that there are as many Chinese as white souls travelling on that line. While there are 140 whites in the district of Byrock, there are 90 Chines© employed on “patriotic” conscriptionists’ stations. In that district more Chinese than white men are employed. It would seem, therefore, that every stationowner and every manager for the big companies is advocating conscription only that his vile ends may be achieved. These people are employing Chinese, although we have no conscription, while the returned soldier is carrying his swag all over this country. While he is on his pension of 7s. 6d. or 10s. per week Chinese are preferred by the stationowner. One of the prominent and leading conscriptionists in the district of Cobar is a stock and station agent. Sycophant- like he must do what those who employ him want, or his living will go. His advocacy of conscription is equal to that of the honorable member for Flinders, and he proudly displayed in his office window about 14th November last a card bearing the words : “ Wanted five scrubcutters, Chinamen preferred.” That sort of thing is common. I repeat that there are more Chinamen than whites employed in ring-barking and scrub-cutting on the stations of western New South Wales.
I wish now to refer to a regulation passed under the War Precautions Act to make politicians honest and to .keep them from telling lies. “On 31st October last the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), speaking in the Sydney Town Hall, said that at no time up to that date had the reservoir of reinforcements run dry. That was prior to the conscription referendum being decided upon.
– Prior to the stampede.
– Prior to the great stampede. Shortly afterwards- on 12th November - the Prime . Minister, speaking at Bendigo, said that there was a very grave shortage, and that it had been necessary to break up the 5th Division in order to provide reinforcements for the other four. Now, either the Prime Minister or the Minister for- Defence was telling lies in regard to that matter. When Premier Ryan was haled before the Court, and when the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) was similarly dealt with, it appeared from evidence given on oath by several responsible officers’ in the Defence Department, that the Prime Minister was lying. Their statements made on oath were in effect that the 5th Divison did not have to be broken up. Somebody was lying. Who was it? The point to which . I take exception is that ©very member of the Labour party was watched, spied upon, and dogged, his meetings being attended by spies and petty Pinkertons in order that he should not tell that one lie. The only people who were capable of lying during that campaign, according to the summing up of our friends opposite, were members of the Labour party.
– No, no. Who has said that?
Mr. -Tudor. - The Prime Minister at the Sydney Town Hall said “ One lie and you. are in.’1’
– The position is very plain. The Prim© Minister has refused to allow any member of the Nationalist party to be prosecuted. That is a definite and distinct statement. * A’t no time have the provisions of the “ great lie ‘ ‘ regulation been brought into operation against any conscriptionist. I know of at least two applications that have been made to the Prime Minister to prosecute persons on the conscription side, and to which no reply has been given. The regulation waa passed to “ gag “ the nocon.scriptionists of this country. The ‘ ‘ on© lie” regulation was like the light. It’ turned out to be, not a cracker, but only a wet squib. There is still worse to come. The people of this country have to pay the piper. If the Prime Minister or his colleagues had to pool their salaries to pay for this wicked and wanton waste of the people’s money there might be some satisfaction in it. -But what right has thePrime Minister or any member of the National party to go in for mad and experimental legislation of such a vindictivecharacter as that of the “one lie” regulation framed under the War Precautions. Act.
– It was not legislation, but a regulation passed behind the back of Parliament.
– Although only a regulation it has just as much force as an Act of Parliament. The two men mainly concerned are, of course, the Prime Minister and the Government Printer, but members of the National party stood by, and saw public men haled before magistrates, and charged with faked charges- charges which even conscriptionist magistrates turned down on the ground that they -frere loosely drawn, experimental, and based on GilbertandSullivan regulations. The trouble is that the Australian people have to pay for tha vindictiveness which sought to “ gag “ anti-conscriptionists and the Labour party, and prevent them putting their views before the public. ‘ My own particular case arose from the fact that I wrote an article for the Worker. This article was really an extract from the appeal made by the organizer of the Fruit and Vegetable Fund in Sydney. The appeal stated that there were 1,200 wives of soldiers at’ the Front on the books, and that to these women were handed parcels of fruit and vegetables, of which they were in need. The appeal further stated that there were 400 wives of soldiers at the Front who could not be placed on the books owing to the lack of cash, and that there were 4,300 children dependent on these 1,600 mothers. These are facts which -the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Groom) ought to take into consideration, if _ he has not . already done so. In my article I simply stated the facts briefly, and Chen added a comment that the position would be accentuated a hundredfold if conscription were carried. Then the busybodies, the Pinkertons, the spies in tHe Darling electorate, got to work, and prevailed on some one to take action against me. I mention this case, not because it is my own, hut because it is on a par with the whole of . the prosecutions that were entered into in order to apply the “ gag,” and not allow us to tell our constituents what was happening in Australia. Because of that comment, it was decided by the legal fraternity who conduct the business of the National party that I had committed an offence by making a misrepresentation of facts. On this ground I was to be haled before a conscriptionist magistrate.
– How do you know that he was a conscriptionist magistrate?
– Because I know the town where the case was to be tried.
– Did the magistrate express any opinion in Court?
– Most of the magistrates not only gave expression to their opinion, but went on the platform. At Nyngan, the magistrate went on the platform, and there referred to a returned soldier who interjected as a “ chocolate “ or “ tin “ soldier, although that soldier had ten or eleven shrapnel wounds on his body.
– In Victoria no police magistrate ever went on the platform.
– The magistrate to whom I refer imposed a fine of £50 on a gentleman ofthe name of Arthur Bleakley for hot submitting a pamphlet to the censor. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Joseph Cook) reviewed that pamphlet, (hough probably he’ does not know that it cost the secretary of the league £50. Does the honorable member think that the pamphlet was worthit?
– I do not. .
– Nor did we. At this hour of the evening I ask leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motionby Mr. Joseph Cook agreed to -
That theHouse, at its rising, adjourn until 11 o’clocka.m. to-morrow.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1916-17- Dated 27th December, 1917.
Public Service Act - Promotions -
Home and Territories Department -
Letterc arriers and Returned Soldiers.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Is the Postmaster- General aware that married letter carriers,, who have been rejected for the Forces, are being displaced by young men who have returned from the Front? In one case I have in my mind, a young single man who is in receipt of a pension of 30s. a week has replaced a married man. If that is all the Government are able to do in the way of repatriation, it is time the Minister in charge looked into the matter, and endeavoured to make some change. I feel quite sure that returned soldiers, especially those in receipt of pensions of 30s., are not anxious to have married men discharged in order to find places for themselves. I ask the Postmaster-General to be good enough tosee whether the facts are as stated.
– If the honorable member will submit the names of the men concerned, I shall be glad to make inquiries.
– Are the names necessary?
– I think so, because I cannot be expected to enter upon what I may describe as a rambling inquiry.
Mr.Higgs. - You can ask if what I have said is the practice in the Department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 January 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180115_reps_7_83/>.